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Bxenan 

The Spanish labyrint 



9l;6.08 333s2 CIU95 63-06333 
BTSIIOJI 

The Spanish labyrinth 
llain 





MAR 2 1966 \ 



THE 

SPANISH LABYRINTH 

<An ^Account of the 

Social and ^Political Background of 

the Civil War 

BY 

GERALD BRENAN 



CAMBRIDGE 
the University Tress 
1960 



PUBLISHED BY 
THE SYNDICS OF THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

Bentley House, 200 Euston Road, London, N.W. i 
American Branch: 32 East 57th Street, New York 22, N.Y, 



First edition *943 

Second edition *9S 

First paperback edition 1960 



Printed in the U.S.A. 



; " " -CONTENTS 

Preface to the Second Edition page vii 

Preface to the First Edition ix 

Chronological Table xix 

Political Divisions, 1873-1936. Six maps xxi 

Parti 

THE ANCIEN REGIME, 1874-1931 

Chapter I The Restoration, 1874-1898 i 

II The Parliamentary Regime and the 

Catalan Question, 1898-1909 17 

III The Liberals and the Church 37 

IV The Army and the Syndicalist Struggle in 

Barcelona, 1916-1923 57 

V The Dictatorship 78 

Part II 
THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING CLASSES 

Chapter VI The Agrarian Question 87 

VII The Anarchists 131 

VIII The Anarcho-Syndicalists 170 

IX The Carlists 203 

X The Socialists 215 



VI CONTENTS 

Part III 

THE REPUBLIC 

Chapter XI The Constituent Cortes 229 

XII The Bienio Negro 265 

XIII The Popular Front 298 

XIV Epilogue the Civil War 316 

Three sketch maps 3 33" 5 

Appendices 336 

Bibliography 346 

Index 370 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 

This book was written during and immediately after the Civil War. 
It was often difficult to get the material I needed and still more 
difficult, in the heated atmosphere of Spanish politics, to rely upon 
what I got. I had, too, to contend in my own mind with strong feelings 
and prejudices, for I had taken sides in the war in support of the 
Republic against the Nationalist Movement. Those who remember 
the intense passions aroused all over the world by this conflict will 
understand how difficult it was to see Spanish affairs objectively. Yet 
I tried to do so, for my object in writing this book was not to justify 
the side I supported, but rather to explain to myself and to others 
how things had turned out as they did. I especially wished to make 
clear the mistakes and illusions of the Spanish Left, for they were the 
people who, on the whole, seemed to me to have the greatest amount 
of justice and decency on their side and, since most persons of good 
will in other countries supported them and their cause was also that 
of the Democracies, the lessons to be learned from their failure might 
find a wide audience. Not of course that I claimed to see further at 
the time than the actors in these events, but that in the course of 
writing about them, the mistakes stood out and demanded to be taken 
notice of. 

On rereading this book to-day, nine years after it was finished, 
I naturally find some things in it that I would like to change. Errors 
of fact have been corrected, but passages which require rewriting or 
amplifying have had to be left as they are. The chapter I am least 
satisfied with is that which deals with the struggle between the 
Liberals and the Church. A national Church, even when it has fallen 
far below what is expected of it, has resources of a different kind from 
those of a political party. It is not to be judged, as we Anglo-Saxons 
are apt to suppose, as a sort of divinely appointed ethical society, 
whose health and vigour depend solely upon the religious spirit of its 
members. At its lowest it occupies a key position in the social pattern 
of the country, from which, especially in agricultural communities, 
it cannot easily be displaced. Then, if it is a Catholic Church, it has 
a certain unsuspected power of rising and expanding, because it 
provides something for which there is an increasing demand in times 
of stress. This is especially true in Spain, where a destructive and 
sceptical frame of mind is accompanied, often in the same person, by 
a deep longing for faith and certainty. 



viii PREFACE 

My mistake in this chapter was to take up a too exclusively moral 
and political attitude. The Spanish Church has a vitality which its 
conduct does not suggest. When one has finished pointing out its 
narrowness, its obstinacy, its talent for making enemies, as well as 
its incapacity for adapting itself to modern times, there is still a good 
deal left to be said. At all events it is the power which remains in the 
field when wars and revolutions are over, when everything else has 
failed, the parent to whom the Prodigal, not entirely willingly, returns. 

It is true that a Church as rigid and uncompromising as the Spanish 
Church is not conceivable in France or Italy. But is not that the case 
with almost every other Spanish body and institution? The Spaniards 
who most strongly object to it the intellectuals and the Liberals 
are precisely those who wish to see their country more European. 
That, no doubt, if one has been born a Spaniard, is a sensible ideal, 
yet, seen from this side of the Pyrenees, the chief virtue of Spain may 
be thought to lie in its intractability. Death by monotony, by same 
ness, by loss of identity is if we are spared destruction in another 
war the fate held out by the brave new world of universal control 
and amalgamation. Against that death Spain will put up a long drawn 
out resistance. 

As regards the rest of the book, I have little to say. So far as I am 
aware, no new material has appeared to affect the account I have given 
of the events which led up to the Civil War. Nor have my opinions 
upon these events changed in any important particular. I feel more 
sympathetic than I did to General Primo de Rivera, though it is 
certain that, as I have pointed out, his brief age of gold was a conse 
quence of the American boom ; and I feel less patient with the folly of 
the Republicans in attacking the Church, neglecting the land question 
and generally overestimating their own strength. But these are 
matters of degree and if I were to rewrite this book to-morrow, 
I should not do so very differently. Of the folly and wickedness of 
the Military rising, dependent as it was upon foreign assistance, there 
can to-day be no two opinions. With a little patience the Right would 
have gained much of what it sought without a war, for the Popular 
Front was breaking up rapidly through its inner discords, and a revo 
lution from the Left had already been tried and had failed. But the 
Nationalist leaders had had their heads turned by Nazi Germany: 
they wanted nothing less than a complete victory with the annihilation 
of their enemies; and their followers, who in any case had no choice, 
were frightened. The result was a civil war which has ruined Spain 
for half a century. 



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION 

Nearly ninety years ago Karl Marx observed that the knowledge of 
Spanish history in his time was altogether inadequate. * There is 
perhaps', he wrote, *no country except Turkey, so little known to and 
so falsely judged by Europe as Spain.' And he went on to explain that 
this was because historians * instead of viewing the strength and re 
sources of these peoples in their provincial and local organization have 
drawn at the source of their court histories'. These remarks still have 
a good deal of truth in them. The standard histories of the Peninsula 
give a false impression of the events they describe. And this is due 
chiefly to one thing. Spain, both economically and psychologically, 
differs so greatly from the other countries of Western Europe that the 
words of which most history is made feudalism, autocracy, liberalism, 
Church, Army, Parliament, trade union and so forth have quite 
other meanings there to what they have in France or England. Only 
if this is made clear, only if each piece of the political and economic 
machine is separately described, only if the provincial questions are 
fully gone into and the interactions of all the local and sectional 
organizations on one another are brought to light will anything like a 
true impression be arrived at. 

The first point to be noticed is the strength of provincial and 
municipal feeling. Spain is the land of the patria chica. Every village, 
every town is the centre of an intense social and political life. As in 
classical times, a man's allegiance is first of all to his native place, or 
to his family or social group in it, and only secondly to his country 
and government. In what one may call its normal condition Spain is 
a collection of small, mutually hostile or indifferent republics held 
together in a loose federation. At certain great periods (the Caliphate, 
the Reconquista, the Siglo de Oro) these small centres have become 
infected by a common feeling or idea and have moved in unison : then 
when the impetus given by this idea declined, they have fallen apart 
and resumed their separate and egoistic existence. It is this that has 
given its spectacular character to Spanish history. Instead of a slow 
building up of forces such as one sees in other European nations, there 
has been an alternation between the petty quarrels of tribal life and 
great upsurges of energy that come, economically speaking, from 
nowhere. 



X PREFACE 

The main political problem has therefore always been how to strike 
a balance between an effective central government and the needs of 
local autonomy. If too much force is applied at the centre, the pro 
vinces revolt and proclaim their independence : if too little, they with 
draw into themselves and practise passive resistance. At the best of 
times Spain is a difficult country to govern. And it happens that this 
difficulty has been accentuated, if it has not been caused, by one thing. 
Castile, which by its geographical position and its history represents 
the centralizing tradition, is a barren tableland, poor in agriculture, 
in minerals and in industry. The provinces of the sea border are all 
much richer and more industrious. Thus though Spain can only be 
held together by Castile for a Spain governed from Barcelona, 
Bilbao or Seville is unthinkable the Castilians lack the industrial and 
commercial dynamism to provide an effective economic organization. 
Their outlook is military and authoritarian, and the richer and more 
industrious provinces have been quick to realize that, so long as they 
are governed by Castile, not only their local liberties but also their 
economic interests will be sacrificed. There have no doubt been partial 
exceptions to this the reign of Carlos III (who was brought up in 
Italy) and the Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (an Andalusian) stand 
out but in general one may say that the principal cause of Spanish 
separatism has been the industrial and commercial apathy of the 
Castilians. How else can one explain the fact that at a time when 
modern methods of production and communication were welding to 
gether the European nations and when the small states of Germany 
and Italy were uniting, the separatist tendencies in Spain were be 
coming more acute? 

There is often however something to be said for living out of one's 
age. The concentration of the social forces of a country into small local 
groups brings compensations. By their failure to form a politically 
homogeneous nation Spaniards have preserved a kind of life which 
was common in the Middle Ages and in antiquity, but which modern 
men, the children of small families and diffuse societies, have lost. 
Most of the qualities we admire them for come from this. Their 
vigour and independence of character, the quickness and completeness 
of their response to any social situation, their emotional integrity, their 
gift of words -and, one should add, their chronic indiscipline are all 
due to the fact that they have gone on living the intense life of the 
Greek city-state or Arab tribe or medieval commune. Instead of the 
agora, there is the club and cafe. Politics are municipal or tribal and in 



PREFACE XI 

this sense real that the man on the losing side pays a forfeit. Hence 
the political acuteness which strikes even the most superficial observer 
of the Spaniards, but hence too the ineffectually. Even the best 
minds among them rarely escape sufficiently from the web of personal 
relations to dominate the scene around them. The same causes that 
have made Spaniards the most vigorous and human people in Europe 
have condemned them to long eras of political stagnation and futility. 

It goes without saying that the tendency of the country to divide up 
its life into small local compartments has not excluded other lines of 
cleavage. There has also been a class stratification and a class struggle. 
But even this has been deeply affected by the provincial question. 
Thus, to take only the simplest case, one finds in those provinces 
where there were autonomist leanings among the bourgeoisie, that the 
working classes adopted a wildly expansive and Hberty-loving form of 
socialism known as anarchism, whereas in Castile they preferred a 
severely authoritarian and centralizing Marxism. Even the Marxist 
heretics (the 'Trotskyist' P.O.U.M.) hailed from Catalonia. It might 
be thought that the rise of Liberalism in Castile in the last century was 
an exception to this. But Liberalism reached Madrid from Andalusia 
and was accepted by the Castilians when they saw what use they could 
make of it. They found it not only strengthened the Castilian bour 
geoisie by handing over to them the Church lands and common lands 
free of all feudal embarrassments, but that it provided them with an 
instrument of government of strongly centralizing tendencies. The 
one element in the Constitution which gave some measure of local 
autonomy, the provision for the free election of the Municipal coun 
cils, was suppressed as soon as the Carlists had been safely defeated, 
whilst the difficulty presented by the clause in the constitution re 
quiring general elections to the Cortes was got over by the organization 
of local bosses or caciques, who saw to it that only the Government 
nominees got in. Thus the triumph of the Liberal Party failed to bring 
any of the characteristic features of parliamentary Liberalism. Spain 
continued to be ruled by the landlords, who alone held all the 
political power. The real Liberals, the petite bourgeoisie of the South 
and East, found themselves left out in the cold and condemned to a 
sterile ferment of .radical and federal propaganda, with occasional 
revolutions, till the end of the century. The seed they had sown was 
then reaped by the Anarchists. 

It is thus clear that the pattern of political forces in Spain has been 
determined throughout by geography. In the East and South there 



xii PREFACE 

was Catalan nationalism among the middle classes and anarcho- 
syndicalism among the factory workers and agricultural labourers 
both movements that lay stress on liberty. In Castile there was an 
authoritarian Catholic conservatism based on land tenure and an 
equally authoritarian Marxism that drew its strength from land 
hunger. In the North there were autonomist movements linked to an 
ultra-Catholic, agrarian creed known as Carlism. Even such widely 
felt movements as Republicanism had a regional background, because, 
however centrally minded its leaders might be, however Castilian in 
their outlook, they could only reach and hold power with the aid of 
Catalonia. Just as the Carlists, for all their autocratic ways, had been 
forced to promise the Basques and Navarrese their historic fueros, so 
the Republicans and Socialists of 193 1, Castilians to the marrow almost 
all of them, were obliged to grant the Catalans a very high degree of 
autonomy. Indeed, as their enemies increased their pressure against 
them, they were compelled to go farther and to hand out autonomy 
statutes to the Basques and Galicians as well an example of the fact 
that every popular movement, every Republican regime in Spain, 
tends under pressure of events to become federal and that the farther 
it carries its federal programme, the weaker it becomes, because it has 
parted with power to the provinces. Military revolts, on the contrary, 
which also (unless they have foreign aid) require the Catalan spring 
board, are able to go back on their promises as soon as they are esta 
blished in power, because they rule by force and not by consent. 

But what was it that made these various parties into which Spain 
was divided so incapable of coming to terms with one another? As 
well explain why it is that the nations of Europe find it so difficult to 
live in harmony. Spain is a miniature Europe and the Spaniards are 
great power lovers. This comparison, however, must not lead one to 
exaggerate the separatist sentiments of the different provinces. Even 
Catalans feel themselves to be Spaniards. The force behind every 
autonomist movement in the Peninsula is the discontent of the petite 
bourgeoisie at the narrow and impecunious groove in which they live. 
The root of their local jingoism is economic. But the peculiar inter 
twining of provincial and social issues and the balance of power tactics 
adopted by the Governments at Madrid have helped very greatly to 
increase the tension. One may see this best in the case of Barcelona, 
where Conservative Governments systematically built up the power of 
the revolutionary working classes in order to keep in check the middle 
classes, who were clamouring for autonomy, and even, on one occasion, 



PREFACE X11I 

when the Anarchists had failed to do their job, laid bombs at the doors 
of the capitalists themselves. A regime given over to wretched shifts 
and petty politics of this kind does not contribute to the peaceful 
development of a country. On the contrary it is a source of perpetual 
irritation. More than anything else it has been the failure of the ruling 
classes to provide honest government, or to show the least regard for 
the complaints that cried to Heaven against them from the provinces, 
that has made Spain the classic land of insurrections. 

There is perhaps one more factor in the political scene that needs 
to be taken account of the influence of religion. To understand this 
one must go back some way in history. Modern Spain owes her 
existence as a nation to the Reconquista. For eight centuries the work 
of driving out the Moslems was her peculiar vocation, and her unity 
was the reward of its successful conclusion. The crusading impulse 
had by this time become so much a part of the national character that 
till complete exhaustion set in in the seventeenth century the holy 
war was continued without any regard for self-interest against the 
Protestants. The Church had naturally taken a leading part in these 
events. The clergy were the guardians of the great idea that Spaniards 
were fighting for, and under their influence Spaniards became accus 
tomed to thinking that all differences of opinion were crimes and all 
wars were ideological. Then, in 1812, the Church became engaged in 
a political struggle with the Liberals. This struggle led to a civil war 
that lasted seven years and, though the Church lost, politics and 
religion were left so fatally entwined that they could never afterwards 
be separated. This became clear when it was seen that the defeat of the 
Church had thrown it into the arms of the landowners, so that from 
now on an attack on the one would inevitably mean an attack on the 
other. The harmonizing role which religion had played in the social 
disputes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had changed to 
one of exacerbation. 

Then, at the beginning of this century, a general decay of religious 
faith set in. The middle classes fell off first and after them the working 
classes, but religion had meant so much to the poor that they were left 
with the hunger for something to replace it. And this something could 
only be one of the political doctrines, anarchism or socialism, that they 
found waiting for them. They adopted them therefore in the same 
spirit, with the same crusading ardour and singleness of mind with 
which in previous ages they had adopted Catholicism. For a time it 
seemed that a compromise might be possible because the Socialist 



XIV PREFACE 

leaders desired reform rather than revolution, but the intransigeance 
of the governing classes combined with the decline of the economic 
situation and the rise of fascism in Austria and of Nazism in Germany 
made this impossible. 

In other countries respect for the State might have acted as a 
moderating influence. But this was a feeling that not a single party in 
Spain ever showed. A succession of disreputable sovereigns had dis 
credited the Monarchy. Military pronunciamientos had compromised 
the Army and corrupt elections had destroyed faith in the Cortes. The 
Church, which had initiated the most terrible civil war of the century, 
was a permanent focus of disaffection. To most Spaniards the Govern 
ment meant simply the clique of politicians which had managed to get 
into power, and none had any moral authority outside its own circle 
of supporters. One may say that the only thing that delayed the out 
break of civil war was that no party felt strong enough to begin. 

Under these political and social alignments there lay of course an 
economic question. In raw materials and in foodstuffs, as well as in 
manufactures, Spain was in 1931 more self-sufficient than any other 
European country. But to make it a working concern the earnings of 
the peasants and agricultural labourers needed to be raised to enable 
them to buy more in the towns. This however, under the system of 
private ownership of land, was not easy. The soil through the greater 
part of the country is poor and the rainfall deficient : the land has to 
support a far larger population than modern farming technique will 
allow. With even the best organization only a low standard of living 
would have been possible. But in most parts of the country the level 
of farming was backward, the credit system unhelpful and the 
marketing system worse, whilst the number of middle-class families 
(many of them extremely poor and others just drones) was greater than 
the wealth of the country could support. The result for more than half 
the population was therefore chronic undernourishment, amounting 
in bad years to semi-starvation. This provided a permanent incitement 
to revolution. And yet so accustomed are the Spanish poor to priva 
tion that without the loss of hold of the Church and the introduction 
of new creeds to replace it, this factor would not have been sufficient. 
The revolutionary forces in Spain had to be moral and ideological ones 
and the working classes aspired rather to freedom and control of their 
own affairs than to a higher standard of living. Where there was envy 
of the rich (and Spaniards are a very envious race) it took the form of 
desiring to bring them down almost as much as of raising themselves. 



PREFACE XV 

The Civil War was the explosion in the powder magazine that had 
been slowly accumulating. The Popular Front elections had tem 
porarily aligned the political forces in Spain on two opposite, though 
by no means well assorted, sides. The Army then rose, expecting with 
its usual over-confidence to overwhelm the population of the large 
towns within a few days. But the heroism of the working classes de 
feated this project and the revolution they had so long waited for, but 
would probably never have been able to launch themselves, began. 
It is in the nature of revolutions to throw up moments when all the 
more brilliant dreams of the human race seem about to be realized, 
and the Catalans with their expansive and self-dramatizing character 
were not behind other peoples in this respect. Visitors to Barcelona 
in the autumn of 1936 will never forget the moving and uplifting 
experience 1 and, as the resistance to the military rebellion stiffened, 
the impressions they brought back with them spread to wider and 
wider circles. Spain became the scene of a drama in which it seemed 
as if the fortunes of the civilized world were being played out in 
miniature. As in a crystal, those people who had eyes for the future 
looked, expecting to read there their own fate. 

Spain, the symbol, was however rather a different thing from Spain, 
the actuality. The war had begun as a straightforward class struggle 
between the reactionary landowners on one side and the revolutionary 
peasants and factory workers on the other. The Church, the Army 
officers and the majority of the middle classes supported the former, 
and the petite bourgeoisie and the intellectuals the latter. Such is the 
broad outline, though the fact that the Republicans had bought over 
by the grant of an autonomy statute two of the most solidly Catholic 
and anti-liberal provinces in the country introduces a complication. 
But this apparently simple setting concealed, on the anti-fascist side, 
a fatal dilemma. Was the revolution to be carried out according to the 
ideas of the anarchists, or to the very different and much less radical 
ones of the Socialists? And what was to be the position of the Catalan 
peasants and petite bourgeoisie, caught between the Scylla of the 
C.N.T. and the Charybdis of the centralizing Madrid Government? 

1 Perhaps it is not too cynical to recall the similar scenes that attended the 
inauguration of the short-lived Federal Republic of 1873. This is how Alexandra 
Dumas fils, a cold and unemotional Frenchman, who professed to despise popular 
movements and in politics belonged more to the Right than to the Left, reacted to 
a street demonstration in Barcelona in November 1868: 'Hier, ivre de bonheur, il 
me fut impossible de retenir les larmes qui par instants coulaient sur mes joues ; 
il me semblait que je voyais les yeux ouverts le plus beau rSve de ma vie la 
Re"publique Universelle. * 



XVI PREFACE 



No answer to these questions other than a second civil war seemed 
possible, when suddenly they were solved, or at least postponed, by 
fresh events. For the Spaniards, it turned out, were not to be left to 
fight out the war by themselves. Two totalitarian nations, Germany 
and Russia, intervened and their intervention led to the growth almost 
overnight of the small Falangist and Communist parties to positions 
of overriding influence. The Falangists absorbed the popular, more 
or less Left Wing elements on their side, and the Communists ab 
sorbed or worked in with the Right Wing of the Republicans. The 
C.N.T., deprived of its hopes of social revolution, adopted a more and 
more passive attitude. The Carlists submitted. For a time the success 
of the new parties seemed to show how strong was the desire in Spain 
for an efficient central party that would make a clean sweep of the 
futile struggles of the past hundred and fifty years and impose a final 
solution, but in the end their totalitarian ideals and methods and their 
dependence upon foreign nations led to a reaction against them. 
Receptive as Spaniards are on the surface to ideas that come from 
abroad, they are at bottom extremely tenacious of their own clannish 
ways of life, and it soon became evident that, except by foreign domi 
nation, these all-embracing parties would not be able to establish 
themselves. Since the termination of the war, the colossal failure of 
the Falange to produce tolerable conditions for anyone not a member 
of their own party, and their peculiar combination of graft, apathy and 
terrorism, have put the final touch to their unpopularity. 

And what of the future? The Civil War was an appalling calamity 
in which every class and every party lost. In addition to the million 
or two dead, the health of the people has been sapped by the famine 
and disease that have followed it. Hundreds of thousands are still in 
prison. Both physically and morally Spain is the wreck of what it was. 
The hope of a resurrection lies in the indomitable vitality of the 
Spanish race and in the fulfilment, when the war is over, of the 
promises of lease-lend assistance that have been held out to all 
European nations by the Allies. Among other things, this help 
should include the provision of the hydraulic machinery needed 
for doubling the irrigated areas of the country, of machine tools 
for manufacturing tractors and other farm implements, and of 
research stations where the best technique for farming the dry 
areas can be worked out. The setting up of tolerable social and 
economic conditions in the Peninsula is a measure indispensable 
to the peace and prosperity of Europe. 



PREFACE XV11 

It may be asked, what Interest can a detailed account of recent 
Spanish history have for the English-speaking peoples? In one sense 
very little, for the problems of Spain are not ours. Living under the 
shadow of European events and reflecting superficially and belatedly 
the political trends of the great industrialized nations, Spaniards are in 
reality obliged to cope all the time with very different social and 
economic situations. This means that in all their affairs nothing is 
ever quite what it seerns. We grope in a sort of fog when we try to 
understand them, and if we are politicians rather than historians or 
psychologists, if what we are out for are confirmations of our own 
theories and opinions or illustrations of general political trends, we 
shall come away disappointed. Everything to be found in Spain is sui 
generis. 

And yet no one who cares for European culture can close his eyes 
to the potentialities of this remarkable people. In recent years they 
have produced in art Picasso, in mechanics the auto-giro, in medicine 
at least one new and surprising invention. In literature and in music 
their output has been characteristic and original. What then has been 
their contribution to social and political ideas? Here it must at once 
be said that, if we search books for the answer, we shall find nothing 
very definite. And yet I believe that under all the folly and frenzy of 
Spanish politics a consistent attitude emerges. Take, for example, 
those two entirely indigenous products of the country, Spanish 
Anarchism and Carlism. As political systems neither need be regarded 
seriously : the one seeks to realize a dream of the remote future, the 
other to recapture an idealized past. But as criticisms of society both 
canalize a feeling that is very deep-seated among Spaniards. One may 
describe this as a hatred of political shams, a craving for a richer and 
deeper social life, an acceptance of a low material standard of living 
and a belief that the ideal of human dignity and brotherhood can never 
be obtained by political means alone, but must be sought in a moral 
reformation (compulsory, it is needless to say) of society. That is what 
one might call the characteristic Spanish attitude. Contrary to the 
Liberal doctrine which separates Church from State and society from 
government, it aims at an integration of political and social life. But 
it is not totalitarian. Far from asserting the moral supremacy of the 
State, it holds the Christian view that every human being, whatever his 
capacity or intelligence, is an end in himself, and that the State exists 
solely to advance these ends. And it goes further. The long and bitter 
experience which Spaniards have had of the workings of bureaucracy 



Xviii PREFACE 

has led them to stress the superiority of society to government, 
of custom to law, of the judgement of neighbours to legal forms of 
justice and to insist on the need for an inner faith or ideology, since 
this alone will enable men to act as they should, in mutual harmony, 
without the need for compulsion. It is a religious ideal, and if it has 
struck so much deeper roots in Spain than in other European countries, 
that is no doubt due largely to the influence of Moslem ideas upon a 
Christian community. The deeper layers of Spanish political thought 
and feeling are Oriental. 

I must thank my friends, Don Luis Araquistain and Mr Arthur 
Lehning, for reading and criticizing my MSS.: the International 
Institute of Social History of Amsterdam (now at Oxford) and Mr 
J. Langdon Davies for lending me otherwise unobtainable books and 
periodicals: Don Enrique Moreno, Dr Max Nettlau, Mr E. H. G. 
Dobby and many Spanish friends for valuable suggestions and in 
formation : Miss Alyse Gregory for kindly correcting the proofs, and 
finally Dr Franz Borkenau without whose advice and encouragement 
this book would probably never have been written. To express here 
what I owe to the Spanish people for the kindness and hospitality I 
received from them during the years I spent among them would be 
impossible. This book, which I began in order to distract my mind from 
the horrors and suspense of the Civil War, is simply one more proof 
of the deep and lasting impression which Spain makes on those who 
know her. 

G. B. 
December 1942 



CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE 

[Events concerning working-class organizations are in italic] 

Sept. 1868 Fall of Isabella II 

Oct. 1868 Fanelli, Bakunin's emissary, arrives in Spain 

June 1870 Spanish Regional Federation of International founded at Barcelona 

Dec. 1870 Amadeo of Savoy becomes King 

April 1872 Carlist War begins 

Sept. 1872 Congress of International at the Hague and final breach between 

Bakunin and Marx 

Dec. 1872 Congress of Regional Federation of International at Cordova 
Feb. 1873 Abdication of Amadeo 

Feb. 1873 Proclamation of Democratic Federal Republic 
June 1873 Cantonalist insurrections begin 

Jan. 1874 General Pavia dissolves Cortes. International declared illegal 
Dec. 1874 Proclamation of Alfonso XII at Sagunto 
Feb. 1876 End of Carlist War 
May 1879 Socialist Party founded 

Feb. 1 88 1 Liberal Government of Sagasta. Trade unions legalised. Regional 
Federation of International refounded 

1883 Mano Negra 
Nov. 1885 Death of Alfonso XII. Regency of Maria Cristina. Pact of Pardo 

between politicians 
May 1886 Birth of Alfonso XIII 

1888 Regional Federation of International breaks up. Foundation of Socialist 

trade union, the U.G.T. 
Mar. 1892 Catalan Nationalists draw up the Bases de Manresa 

1892-1897 Epidemic of bomb-throwing in Barcelona 
Aug. 1897 Assassination of Canovas 

1898 War with U.S.A. and loss of colonies 
Feb. 1902 General strike in Barcelona 
May 1902 Alfonso XIII comes of age 
Jan. 1903 Death of Sagasta 

1903-1905 Wave of Anarchist strikes in Andalusia 
Feb. 1906 Law of Jurisdictions. Solidaridad Catalana founded 
Jan. I9o7-Oct. 1909 Maura Government 

July 1909 Semana Trdgica. Ferrer shot. Pablo Iglesias elected to Cortes 
Oct. 1910 Anarcho- Syndicalist trade union, the CJV.7 1 ., founded 
Feb. i9io-Nov. 1912 Canalejas Government 
Nov. 1912 Canalejas assassinated 

1913 Law of Mancomunidades 

1917 Juntas de Defensa in army. Renovation Movement 

Aug. 1917 General strike of U.G.T. and C.N.T. Collapse of Renovation 
Movement 

1917-1919 Wave of Anarchist strikes in Andalusia and the Levante 
Feb. 1919 Strike at the Canadiense (Barcelona} 

1919-1923 War of pistoleros in Barcelona 

June 1921 Destruction of Spanish Army at Annual. Communist Party founded 
Sept. 1923 Military Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera 

1925 Moroccan War concluded. Civil Dictatorship set up 

1927 Federacidn Anarquista Iberica or F.A.I. founded 



XX CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE 

Jan. 1930 Fall of Primo de Rivera 

Apr. 14, 1931 Proclamation of Republic 

July 1931 Constituent Cortes meets 

Dec. 1931 Left Communist Party founded by Nin and Maurin 

Jan. 1932 Rising of F.A.I . and Left Communists in Llobregat Valley 

Aug. 1932 General Sanjurjo's rising at Seville 

Sept. 1932 Passage of Catalan Autonomy Statute 

Jan. 1933 Rising of F.A.I, in Barcelona. Casas Viejas 

April 1933 Municipal elections to the burgos podridos 

Nov. 1933 Second Cortes of Republic elected 

Dec. 1933 Rising of the C.N.T. in Aragon 

Jan. 1934 Esquerra defeat Lliga in elections to Generalidad. Alianza Obrera 

founded by Largo Caballero and Maurin 
April 1934 Generalidad passes Ley de Cultivos 
June 1934 Campesinos* strike 

Oct. 1934 Rising of Generalidad in Barcelona and of miners in Asturias 
Dec. 1935 Straperlo scandal. Portela Valladares forms Government 
Feb. 1936 P.O.U.M. founded by reunion of Left Communists and Bloque Obrero y 

Campesino 

Feb. 1936 Popular Front victory at elections 
May 1936 Azafia becomes President of Republic 
July 12, 1936 Calvo Sotelo murdered 
July 16, 1936 Rising of Army in Morocco. Civil War begins 



CarUst Spain in 1873 




Federal Spain Ln 1873 

-x^-^i 

Bilbao 



>NA 



Saragassa 

I 

] MADRID j 

J miValencfa 




Socialist Spairfln 1931 



Anarchist Spain in 1931 




CathoUc-Conservatlve Spain in 193 




Spain that voted forthfe Popular Front 

r . / . C-L 1Q^^ >" 




Six Maps to show the Fundamental Political Divisions of Spain 
from 1873 to 1936 



Part I 

THE ANCIEN REGIME 
1874-1931 

I do not know where we are going, but I do know 

this that wherever it is we shall lose our way. SAGASTA. 



Chapter I 
THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

Finally I would say that though the Spaniards have wit, industry and means suffi 
cient for the restoration of their kingdom, they will not restore it: and though 
entirely capable of saving the State, they will not save it because they do not want to. 
SEBASTIANO FOSCARINI, Venetian Ambassador at Madrid in 1682-1686, 

On Christmas Eve 1874 a Spanish general, Martinez Campos, halted 
the handful of troops that he commanded by an olive grove under the 
hill of Saguntum and made a speech at the end of which he pro 
claimed Alfonso XII king of Spain. The ragged conscripts, led by 
their sergeants, cheered. A few officers, who remembered they had 
sworn loyalty to the Republic, fell out. The rest, with shining eyes, 
dreaming of new uniforms and of promotion, remounted their horses 
and the column continued its march to Valencia. The last sixty years 
had seen a great many pronunciamientos of this sort on an average 
one every twenty months but none that was more successful. The 
First Republic fell without a shot being fired to defend it and a few 
weeks later the young king, then a cadet at Sandhurst, landed at 
Barcelona. 

The man to whom the Restoration was due was not, however, a 
general. The coup d'etat had been premature the result of a com 
petition between Army commanders to obtain the honour. The real 
architect of the new order was a Conservative politician, Don Antonio 
Canovas del Castillo, who, ever since it had become clear that the 
revolution of 1868 would fail, had been carefully preparing it. He at 
once assumed the leadership of the provisional government and 
began the difficult work of drawing up the new Constitution the 



2 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

sixth of that century which was to last until Primo de Rivera over 
threw it. 

Canovas was an unusually cultured and intelligent man, and he was 
under no illusions as to the moral and material condition of Spain at 
that time. He had spent the last four years studying in the archives of 
Simancas the causes of the rapid decline of Spain in the seventeenth 
century and in particular during the catastrophic ministry of the 
Conde de Olivares, whose situation, he observed, had in many re 
spects been similar to his own. A man of exceptional talent, Olivares 
had come into power at a critical moment with the mission of saving 
and rebuilding the country and he had failed. His mistake, as 
Canovas saw it, had been the usual Spanish one of attempting to 
carry out ambitious projects without sufficiently considering the eco 
nomic and material means by which they were to be achieved. The 
Spanish national vice had always been over-confidence and optimism. 
Canovas, who hated optimists, determined to take exactly the op 
posite path : to give the country a rest from civil wars and politics : to 
encourage it to build up its industries and enrich itself, and to hope 
that, as the ruling classes became by this process more European, they 
would lose some of their native sloth and egoism and acquire a greater 
sense of their responsibilities. 

There was nothing in the temper of Spain at this time to make these 
views unacceptable. A cloud of pessimism and inertia hung over 
everything. Patriotic Spaniards felt despair when they thought of the 
recent history of their country. The glorious national rising against 
Napoleon had been followed by twenty-six years of savage reaction 
and civil war: this had been succeeded by the anarchic rule of the 
generals which, under a delightful but scandalously unchaste queen, in 
a Ruritanian atmosphere of railway speculation and uniforms, had 
lasted for another twenty-eight. Then there had come a revolution and 
Isabella was turned out. The middle classes had risen because her 
camarilla governments had taken away their liberties, the generals had 
risen because she had chosen a lover who was not in the Guards, the 
people had risen because they had lost their common lands and be 
cause they disliked being sent to die in remote unhealthy climates in 
incomprehensible wars. But, when Isabella had gone, no agreement 
could be come to as to the best form of government : a king of the anti 
clerical house of Savoy was tried and rejected : then came the federal 
republic, which ended in disaster. The Carlists had overrun the 
northern provinces: there had been a 'Cantonalist' rising in the south 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 3 

which had to be suppressed by force. And now a Bourbon, a young 
insignificant-looking man, with none of the good looks of his reputed 
father, the Catalan guardsman, was on the throne again. Political 
feeling had never been lower, and though there was general relief that 
the form of government had been settled, no one felt any hope or 
enthusiasm as to the future. 

It was in this not uncongenial atmosphere that Canovas set out to 
build the new state. He was guided by two main principles one to 
exclude the Army from political power the other on no account to 
trust to free elections. 

As to the Army everyone now blamed it for the troubles and up 
heavals of the last thirty years. In the twenties and thirties it had 
been the champion of the weak middle classes who were more or less 
Liberal, and had saved the country from the dreaded Carlists. After 
winning the Carlist War, it had ruled the country itself, mainly for its 
own profit but also, to a certain extent, with the sanction of the middle 
and lower-middle classes. Now that Carlism, as it was thought, was 
finally crushed, its function was gone, and Canovas determined that it 
should be reduced for ever to the normal role of armies the defence 
of the country against outside enemies. 

Canovas' second principle is more difficult to explain. He greatly 
admired the English parliamentary system to the point, it is said, of 
knowing many of the chief speeches of Gladstone and Disraeli by 
heart and in his Constitution he imitated its outward form carefully. 
He also introduced a property qualification by which the (mostly 
illiterate) working classes were excluded from the vote. One would 
have supposed therefore that the middle and lower-middle classes 
could have been allowed to express their opinion freely and to choose 
their candidates at elections. But this is what he deliberately set him 
self to prevent. Although the press was free that was one thing he 
insisted upon there was not a single honest or genuine election to the 
Cortes during his life or indeed (since the system he set up continued 
after him) until the disappearance of the Monarchy in 1931. 

The explanation of this anomaly is a simple one. Canovas, as a 
politician, saw that Spain must be governed for a time by the upper 
classes, who alone could be counted on to support the new regime. 
But the country (that is to say those who had the right to vote) was 
mainly Radical with a strong admixture of Republicans, and under 
free elections they would have returned a Radical majority to the 
Cortes. This was the reason why the elections had at first, until the 



4 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

Monarchy should gain strength and prestige, to be controlled. Be 
sides, there were more general and permanent reasons. Since the 
beginning of the civil wars distrust of public opinion had become 
endemic among Spaniards. The old happy sense of unity under King 
and Church had gone and left a crowd of suspicions behind it. Now 
Spaniards are by nature a suspicious and exclusive race: they live 
habitually in small compartments and like to settle their affairs through 
little sets or groups. Everything for their family, their friends, their 
dependants, their class, is their rule, and nothing for outsiders. Had 
the general voter been allowed in, no pact between the Liberal and 
Conservative parties could have been made, since they would not have 
trusted one another. The exclusion of that dangerous and unpredic 
table factor, public opinion, was essential. 

Canovas shared all this pessimism as to the reasonableness and 
ductibility of the people: indeed he extended it to his own class as 
well. Son espanoles los que no pueden ser otra cosa, he once said, when 
asked to define, for the purposes of some clause of the Constitution, 
the limits of Spanish nationality ' Spaniards are those people who 
can't be anything else 5 . And out of this pessimism came his belief 
that the affairs of the country must be conducted by a small, select 
class of politicians, the most intelligent, the most eloquent, the best 
educated, who could be trusted to do what was necessary. Thus, 
gradually, he hoped, serious currents of political opinion would be 
formed and the upper and middle classes at present so inert and so 
egoistic would wake up to their responsibilities. *I come to gal 
vanize', he used to say, 'the political corpse of Spain/ But in fact, 
like his predecessor Olivares, though for exactly opposite reasons, he 
merely caused it to decay more rapidly. 

The middle years of the nineteenth century had seen Army dic 
tatorships or reactionary governments interrupted every few years by 
military revolutions. Since 1814 no Liberal government had come 
in except by violence. Canovas was too intelligent not to see the 
inconvenience and the danger of that. He therefore arranged that 
Conservative governments should be succeeded regularly by Liberal 
governments. The plan he followed was, whenever an economic crisis 
or a serious strike came along, to resign and let the Liberals deal with 
it. This explains why most of the repressive legislation passed during 
the rest of the century was passed by them. But in fact there was no 
longer any difference whatever between Liberals and Conservatives, 
except that the Liberals were anti-clerical and interested themselves 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 5 

in education, whilst the Conservatives professed a mild concern for 
agriculture and for social conditions. 

In 1885 the King died of consumption and a few months later the 
Queen Regent gave birth to a posthumous child Alfonso XIII. As 
the King lay on his death-bed the politicians met at the Palace of the 
Pardo and signed a pact by which the practice they had already 
initiated of taking turns at government was formally consecrated. So 
risks to the dynasty were avoided. Canovas, who was then in power, 
resigned and his Liberal opponent Sagasta formed a government. To 
keep the Radicals quiet an act of Universal Suffrage was passed with a 
great blare of trumpets, but it made no difference at all. The rule re 
mained that whatever government made the elections won them. This 
was so much a matter of course that the election results were some 
times published in the official newspaper before they took place. It 
was rare for even a single candidate who was not nominated by the 
Government to get in. 

But perhaps it would be as well to explain how these results were 
obtained. The electioneering machine had its apex in the Home Office. 
From there orders were issued to the Civil Governors of the pro 
vinces giving them the names of the Government candidates and 
sometimes even the approximate majorities by which they must appear 
to win. Not all belonged to the same party. If a Conservative govern 
ment was conducting the election, a fair number of Liberals and 
sometimes even an inoffensive Republican or two would be let in. 
The Government deputies did not wish, like the members of Fascist 
states, to talk in the void they were cultivated, reasonable men, and 
to develop their ideas properly and to score points they needed an 
opposition. They were also artists of the spoken word and anyone who 
had a fine style of oratory, even if his views were somewhat heterodox, 
was given a seat. 

The first task then of the Civil Governor, as soon as he had his 
orders from the Home Office, was to prepare the municipalities. If 
by some chance the right men had not been elected to these, an ir 
regularity would be discovered in the accounts of the Council and 
others substituted in their place. The municipalities then drew up the 
lists of the voters. Naturally only those who could be trusted to 
support the official candidate were placed on the lists, and whenever 
the numbers of these were insufficient, the same persons would be put 
down several times. Even the dead could be called upon: on one 
occasion a whole cemetery, seven hundred strong, gave their vote, 



6 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

and it was edifying to see that though they had been illiterate in their 
lifetime, they had all learned to write in the grave. 1 

For some time these measures were sufficient: as, however, years 
passed and people began to show a real desire to elect their own can 
didates, further falsifications of the ballot became necessary. The 
simplest way of doing this was by actas en bianco. The members of the 
ballot committee would certify that they had counted the votes, but 
would leave the column of results blank for the Civil Governor to fill 
in as he pleased later. If for any reason this was impossible, the police 
would exclude voters, ballot papers would be accidentally destroyed 
or gangs of toughs hired to break the ballot-boxes. And since the 
official candidates neither visited their constituencies nor made elec 
tion declarations, it goes without saying that unofficial ones were not 
allowed to do so either. 2 

1 This trick was called pucherazo. Speaking of the 'saturnalia' which took place 
when elections were to be held, Antonio Maura said: 'A swarm of high and low 
agents of the Government falls on villages and towns and unfolds the whole reper 
tory of its overbearing acts, puts in practice all the arts of abuse, and realizes the 
most outrageous falsifications and manipulations and tries on the most ingenious 
tricks and deceits.' 

He goes on: "Then have you ever reflected upon a thing which has become to us 
axiomatic, but which is nevertheless strange ? That after an election all the provincial 
governors have to be removed.... This signifies anyhow a lesser evil the fact that 
the governor who has put pressure on the alcaldes, who has bargained for their 
electoral support in exchange for his closing his eyes to all their immoralities and 
illegal actions... who has menaced and fined alcaldes who would not servir algobierno, 
serve the Government, as the phrase goes, and has made a thousand enemies by 
these acts, finds the province too hot to hold him any longer.' 

From a speech made in the Congress, 8 April 1891. 35 anos de vida publica, 
vol. II, pp. 327-231. 

2 See Madariaga, Spain, p. 104. A. Posada, Estudios sobre el Regimen Parlamen- 
tario en Espana, p. 29, and J. Chamberlain, El Atraso de Espana, p. 97-169. 

Another method was to issue to supporters ballot papers with secret identification 
marks. It could then be known before the counting began what the result of the 
election would be. If unfavourable to the Government, a sufficient number of false 
papers were secretly added to ensure the requisite majority. In 1905 the Socialist 
candidates, Pablo Iglesias and Largo Caballero, secured their election to the Madrid 
Municipal Council by faking these private identification marks, so that till the 
counting began the Government believed that its supporters had secured a majority. 

Senor Carnbo", the distinguished banker and industrialist and leader of the Catalan 
Conservatives, has summed up what he describes as the 'immense fiction of the 
constitutional regime in Spain from Ferdinand VII to September 1923'. 

' During a whole century, Spain has lived under the appearance of a constitutional 
democratic regime, without the people having ever, directly or indirectly, had the 
least share in the Government. The same men who gave them their political rights 
took good care to prevent their ever using them. " It is the people's own fault that 
they do not exercise those rights" said and still say those who usurp them, but the 
fact is that when in Catalonia in 1907 popular suffrage came to be regarded as the 

key to political rights, the governing classes of all parties took care to stifle and 

corrupt it. Who does not remember elections in which the Civil Governors used the 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 7 

These methods sufficed for the large towns where the Governor 
could keep an eye on what was happening; in the small towns and 
country districts, however, another kind of person was required the 
cacique. The caciquethe term is derived from an Indian word 
meaning chief is a man, generally a large landowner, who in ex 
change for certain unwritten privileges organizes the district politi 
cally on the Government's behalf. 

There have probably always been caciques in Spain: no doubt the 
Romans found them useful when they broke up the Celt-Iberian 
tribes. At all events writers of the seventeenth century complain of 
them and in the eighteenth they are spoken of as the scourge of the 
country. But it was constitutional governments and the popular vote 
that gave them their real power. Their palmiest days were from 1840 
to 1917, after which, with the rise of a real public opinion and of a 
genuine body of voters, they began to lose their influence. The obli 
gations of a cacique to the Government were to see that the right 
candidates were elected, in exchange for which they were given the 
protection of the Civil Governors and of the judges and magistrates 
and ^ of course the active assistance of the police. In most parts of 
Spain (the Basque provinces alone excepted) they were practically 
omnipotent. They appointed the mayors in the small towns and 
villages, controlled the local judges and public functionaries and 
through them distributed the taxation. Their fiscal principle was a 
simple one: to excuse themselves and their friends from paying taxes 
and to charge their enemies double or treble. They also usurped 
common lands, pastured their cattle on other people's arable and 
diverted their neighbours' irrigation water to their own fields. If 
anyone tried to stand up against them, lawsuits were brought against 
him and he was ruined. 

Their particular mode of operation varied with the form of land 
tenure: in the north, where the properties are much divided and the 
small farmers are usually in debt, the cacique would be a local worthy, 
a lawyer or perhaps even a priest, representing some conservative 
interest or association, who lent money on mortgage. The man who 
had borrowed from him had to vote as he was told. In other parts of 

police to steal the voting urns or in which the counts of votes were falsified in the very 
rooms in which justice is administered? Who does not remember that vote of the 
elected deputies to the Cortes declaring valid a gross and obvious falsification, as a 
result of which we saw a number of respectable people accepting as their colleague in 
Parliament an individual whom they would never permit to enter their private 
houses?' (Por la Concordia, p. 189.) 



8 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

Spain the caciques were usually large landowners. They used the 
threat of unemployment. In Andalusia their behaviour was often 
particularly outrageous and violent. In the first half of the last century 
they were leagued with the bandits and down to the beginning of this 
one they kept bands of roughs who beat up anyone who disagreed 
with them. At election times their party was called the Partido de la 
Porra, or Cudgel party, and all through the revolutionary elections 
of 1868, in spite of the opposition of the Government and of the whole 
country, they kept their hold on the municipalities. Even so late as 
1920, in a small village where the author was living, the cacique had 
a man murdered on the main road in full daylight in sight of a dozen 
or more people, and though the affair cost him a good deal of money 
neither he nor his accomplices were punished. 

The principal caciques were rich men who controlled dozens of 
villages, and under them lived other lesser caciques and others per 
haps under them. Sometimes in one town or village there would be 
two of them, one 'Liberal' and one 'Conservative', who, far from 
keeping the gentleman's agreement of the politicians in Madrid, would 
be on terms of bitter enmity with one another. Then one had 'village 
polities' with all its odios and venganzas. As a distinguished his 
torian, Gumersindo de Azcarate, said: 'Caciquism is simply a feuda 
lism of a new kind, a hundred times more repugnant than the military 
feudalism of the Middle Ages.' 

It is not surprising therefore that the majority of Spaniards in 
country districts the immense majority preferred to keep clear of 
politics. It was better to put up with wrongs and injustices of every 
kind than to risk worse things by protesting. For the law courts gave 
no protection. The separation of the powers is a thing that has never 
existed in Spain and judges and magistrates were simply Govern 
ment employees who took their orders from above. 1 They condemned 
and acquitted at the word of the Civil Governor. And still worse 
were the village tribunals under the direct orders of the alcalde and 
of the cacique who had appointed him. Even in serious cases that lay 
beyond their jurisdiction they were generally able, by withholding 
evidence, corrupting witnesses and so on, to obtain the result they 
wished for. Only a patient and fatalistic race such as the Spaniards 
could have put up for so long with conditions that lacked even the 
most elementary justice. 

But this injustice was merely one symptom of a much more general 

1 See Note A on p. 15 at end of chapter. 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 9 

evil the corruption of all the upper layers of society. In politics 
everyone except a few leading politicians, who in any case had no 
hesitation in living by the venality of others, was tarred with the same 
brush. Canovas himself gave, in the space of five years, more than 
twelve hundred titles and orders. His lieutenant, Romero Robledo 
(who as Minister for Home Affairs was the organizer of the cacique 
system), on one occasion granted himself 282,000 pesetas for ir 
rigating his own estates. 1 Not only was there a prodigious amount of 
graft in the municipalities, but it was considered treason to denounce 
it. Thus when an honest and disinterested man, the Marques de 
Cabrinana, exposed the notorious scandals of the Madrid Urban 
Council, he was not only condemned for libel, but the whole of the 
aristocracy, some of whom participated in these frauds, cut him. 

The rich, too, evaded almost all their taxes. In 1902 the Minister 
of Agriculture stated in the Senate that the drawing up of the new 
land survey had shown that in four provinces the yearly concealment 
in taxation returns amounted to over three million acres, on which the 
tax due to the State would be at least three million pesetas. It was 
variously estimated that the fiscal fraud in property for all Spain 
reached from 50 to 80 per cent of the total due. 2 But the poor did not 
benefit by this on the contrary, they had to pay far more. In 1909 
M. Marvaud, a competent and impartial witness, found small land 
owners paying from 30 to 40 pesetas tax per acre whilst large estates 
close by paid nothing at all. 3 And on top of this one finds the 
President of the Supreme Court declaring in 1876 that one-third of 
the taxes that were raised remained in the hands of the agents and 
never reached the Government. 

But one must, I think, be careful what inferences one draws from 
this state of things. Spain is not the only country to have gone 
through periods of political and social corruption. At some time or 
other every nation in Europe has had similar experiences. It may 
therefore be useful to take as a point of comparison the case of England 
towards the end of the eighteenth century. England then, like Spain 
in 1880, was an agricultural country ruled by a parliament of landlords 
whose principal requirement was a high tariff on foreign wheat. An 
industrial and mining movement, disregarded by Parliament, was just 
beginning to grow up. In the large towns starvation wages were pro- 

1 See Femdndez Almagro, Historia del Reinado de Alfonso XIII, p. 60. 

2 See Note B on p. 15 at end of chapter. 

8 A. Marvaud, L'Espagne au XXibne Si&cle, pp. 247-248. 



IO THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

ducing an unruly and ignorant population whose existence was felt to 
be a continual danger to society. There was also an impoverished 
lower-middle class, whose hold on life was precarious. 

In both countries, too, the large landowners were busy enclosing the 
common lands : in England, by means of private bills brought in with a 
complete disregard for the rights of the villagers : in Spain, as the 
result of a general policy due not so much to the pressure of eager 
landlords as to Liberal ideas. There was great political corruption and 
the Church, lost to all sense of its religious obligations, had ceased to 
be anything more than a prop for the rich. 

Yet here the resemblance ends. In England there were no caciques. 
The large landlords spent the greater part of the year on their estates 
where, in spite of the enclosures of the common lands and of the 
ferocious laws against poachers, they remained popular figures and 
impartial administrators of justice on the bench. In England, too, 
there was a generous system of poor law relief and no police. In 
Spain, on the other hand, there was a police force armed with rifles 
and no poor law. The Spanish nobility lived in the large towns and 
rarely visited their estates, and the administration of justice, though 
milder than in England, was corrupt and partial. 1 

Then in England trade was flourishing. English capital and English 
energy were busy developing the new industries. In Spain most of 
the capital was foreign, whilst the greater part of the trade and in 
dustry of the country (just as it had been in the seventeenth century) 
was in the hands of the English and French. In short, England in 1750 
was a healthy and energetic if somewhat heartless and brutal country, 
and her vices were those of a growing and rapidly changing organism, 
whilst Spain, passing through the same economic phase a hundred and 
fifty years later, was one of the sick men of Europe. 

How is one to explain this fatal lethargy? It certainly could not 'be 
put down to any falling off in the intrinsic energies of the Spanish 
people. Todo decae confrecuencia en Espana, menos la raza as Canovas 
said. 'Everything decays in Spain except the race.' No one who has 
been south of the Pyrenees would disagree with that. Spaniards in 
Canovas' time were what they have always been a race of immense, 
even of excessive vitality. But they suffered from a disease which 

1 The surprising mildness and, on paper, excellence of the Spanish penal system 
is due to Jeremy Bentham who in 1820, at the request of the Spanish Cortes, drew 
up_ a reformed penal code. But till the reign of Ferdinand VII Spanish public 
opinion had never tolerated severe punishments except for heresy, and the brutality 
of the old English penal system would never have been possible there. 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 II 

radiated from above downwards. And the chief symptom of that 
disease was the dissociation of their political system and of the class of 
landowners which operated it from the social and economic needs of 
the country. 

The defects of the Spanish upper classes are sometimes put down 
to their having a feudal mentality. I do not think this word has been 
well chosen: feudalism implies a sense of mutual obligations that 
has long been entirely lacking in Spain, besides which, historically 
speaking, there has never (except in Aragon) been any true feudal age 
in the Peninsula. The prototype of modern Spanish society is to be 
found in the seventeenth century, in the period that followed that 
immense expansion which transformed a rude, uncultured, poverty- 
stricken but virile country (if one excepts Catalonia and those parts 
of the south-east where Mediterranean influences prevailed) in the 
course of a few years into a vast Empire. Spain came too easily and 
too quickly into her heritage, without sufficient economic or cultural 
preparation, and it acted on her like an intoxicant. Spanish pride, 
Spanish belief in miracles, Spanish contempt for work, Spanish im 
patience and destructiveness, though they had existed before in 
Castile, now received a powerful impetus. Especially Spanish con 
tempt for work. After 1580 the few cloth industries that had grown 
up in Castile declined and Spaniards became a rentier race, a nation 
of gentlemen, living in parasitic dependence upon the gold and silver 
of the Indies and the industry of the Low Countries, 

This is, after all, the common fate of hardy and primitive races that 
conquer advanced civilizations. The history of the East (where pas 
toral races alternately conquer and are absorbed by agricultural ones) 
is full of such rapid rises and declines. Spanish history in the seven 
teenth century shows the decay of a ruling class that had dominated 
but never sufficiently understood nor absorbed European civilization. 
And since they lived on their own soil and not on that of the countries 
they exploited, Spain simply reverted to its primitive, poverty- 
stricken condition. But meanwhile the gentlemanly ideal with its 
hall-mark of leisure had become part of the national character. Work 
had become the degrading thing. To avoid it, it was thought better to 
live by one's wits or, if one had influence, to swell the vast number of 
scribblers and sinecure holders in Government offices. There lies the 
root of all successive political institutions in the Peninsula. Yet one 
should remember the ascetic side to this ideal of the leisured life, 
which redeems it from baseness and vulgarity. The hidalgo was ready 



12 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

to give up comfort, to suffer cold and hunger if he could live with 
honour. Putting this in other words, one may say that Spaniards 
became accustomed to living for great and spectacular ends, and de 
clined when the bourgeois ideal of work, perseverance and duty, 
became the only one which could create or hold together society. 

This leads one to ask what precisely is required if Spain is to play 
her part once more in European civilization. She has, as I think 
history clearly shows, only existed as a nation when under the in 
fluence of some powerful idea or impulse : as soon as that idea has 
declined, the atoms of the molecule have separated and have begun to 
vibrate and to collide on their own account. We see that first in the 
time of Augustus, when Roman civilization subdued the warlike 
Iberian tribes. Hardly was the military domination complete when 
Spain absorbed the Roman idea as Gaul never could and produced 
generals, emperors, philosophers and poets till Italy seemed scarcely 
more than a Spanish province. But the decline in the following 
centuries was so complete that even the Pyrenees could not protect the 
Peninsula against the Germanic hordes that swept over it. The last of 
these, the Visigoths, founded a settled kingdom out of the broken 
pieces of the Empire, but failed to give it new life, so that in 710 a few 
thousand Arabs were able to conquer and to convert within a few 
years the greater part of the country. Islam brought with it a great 
egalitarian idea the brotherhood of all classes and races under one 
banner which Christianity with its priestly hierarchy and its in 
difference to civic virtues had failed to provide, and this idea and the 
breaking-up of estates and reduction of taxes which was its immediate 
consequence made possible an economic revival in those parts of Spain 
which, till they were finally ruined by Castile, had always been more 
cultured and more industrious. This revival produced a brilliant but 
politically unstable civilization, breaking down with the first weak 
government into a number of small but highly civilized states, which 
in the struggle to maintain themselves against the Christians of the 
north, allowed themselves to be absorbed in the new and barbarous 
Moroccan empires which had been founded on the fringe of the 
desert by fanatical dervishes. 

The Reconquista began when the small barbarian kingdoms, into 
which Christian Spain had divided, came chiefly through the in 
fluence of the French monks of Cluny to feel a new consciousness of 
their historical role, but the idea underlying the Reconquest was not 
at this time religious so much as social and political. These early 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 13 

crusaders brought a new form of liberty that of the self-governing 
communes which with extraordinary force and vigour had sprung up 
as if by magic all over the northern and central parts of the country. 
The raison d'etre of these communes was that the kings and nobles, 
wishing to repopulate the abandoned plains and to defend them 
against the Moors, had been obliged to free their serfs and to grant 
them extensive privileges. This movement was brought to a halt in the 
thirteenth century by the chronic inability of the Castilians to think in 
economic and agricultural terms instead of in military and pastoral 
ones. They ruined by their incompetence and lack of commercial 
instinct the new, immensely rich territories they had conquered, and 
Christian Spain broke up again for more than two centuries, its task 
half finished, into hopeless civil war and anarchy. 

The union of Castile and Aragon, the capture of Granada and the 
focusing of popular hatred on the Jews provided with almost miracu 
lous suddenness 1 the motive force of the third great age a military, 
religious, colonizing enterprise but it declined so rapidly that by 
1640 four provinces of Spain were attempting to separate and to 
declare their independence : Portugal broke away and a long civil war 
was necessary to prevent Catalonia from seceding to France. 

Again in 1890, in the period which we are discussing, there were 
separatist movements in various provinces but what was far more 
serious, far more corrosive, were the separatist tendencies of the 
various corporations, such as the Church and the Army, and of the 
horizontal layers of society, the classes. 2 Canovas' work had been to 
patch up provisionally the differences that in the previous century had 
separated Church and Army and politicians by allowing them all to 
enrich themselves together, with the result not only of demoralizing 
en masse the upper and middle classes to which they belonged, but of 
separating them by an immense gulf from the rest of the country. The 
system of * elections from above' made the whole position irre 
mediable. The vote, since modern Europe is not in fact, however 

1 The Spanish Empire of the sixteenth century had no economic basis in Spain. 
But for the accidental discovery of America by Columbus, it would have collapsed in 
1570 with the revolt of the Netherlands for lack of money to sustain the war. 

2 This is the chief theme of Ortega y Gasset's Espana Invertebrada, a book 
essential to the understanding of modern Spain. One may put beside it a quotation 
from the economist Martinez de la Mata, who wrote in the middle of the seventeenth 
century : * The most obvious defect which one finds in the body of this republic is 
that there does not exist in any one of its parts any love or regard for the conservation 
of the whole ; for every man thinks solely of present utility and not at all of the 
future/ (Discurso VIII, s. 103.) 



14 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

much some people may desire it, organized like the Middle Ages in 
close corporations, is the only method of rooting the political system 
and the class that administers it in society. By refusing to allow it to 
be exercised, not only did the politicians lose all influence, but the 
upper classes became detached from the lower layers to which they 
were in any case too weakly anchored. Already by 1900 they appear in 
the eyes of a great many Spaniards as a class of parasites, getting 
everything, giving nothing and revolving, under a thin coating of 
foreign varnish, among the stale feelings and aspirations of the seven 
teenth century. 

* To speak of the idleness of the Spaniard without explaining it is to 
say nothing. The system of work in any society is surely determined 
much less by the proletariat than by the directing classes. Every 
where where the middle classes are industrious, the people knows how 
to work. If we can get the privileged classes to work, that is the whole 
problem. 5 1 

Such was the opinion of Joaquin Aguilera, Secretary of the Fomento, 
the great association of Catalan industrialists; and indeed there is 
scarcely a traveller to Spain since 1600 who has not thought it his duty 
to preach a sermon on the theme of the *lazy Spaniards'. I will at 
present merely say this that if a race of such magnificent natural 
energies as the Spanish has continued generation after generation to 
live in this way, it is only because they have been waiting for an 
idea a plan of work that will move their imaginations. We need not 
blame them for having found little to inspire them in the dreary 
capitalist frenzy of the last century. Capitalism for us in England has 
been simply a normal development from a previous state of things, 
but to Spaniards it has always represented something foreign which 
had therefore to be imitated (Spain is the country par excellence of 
foreign imitations), but could not be made to work. Nor are historical 
growth and development Spanish processes : the economic foundation 
which these require is lacking. As we shall see later the poverty of the 
soil and the unevenness of the rainfall has given a violent rhythm to 
Spanish history, inhibiting the normal accumulation of raw resources, 
but creating a psychological disposition which is sometimes capable of 
producing great and striking effects. 

It is for this reason, no doubt, that Spain, since the loss of its 
Catholic faith, has been above everything else a country in search of 
an ideology. A new idea, an incitement to common action, might, it 

1 See Aguilera's article in El Trabajo National, 16 March 1910. 



THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 15 

was felt, release those energies that hitherto had been directed in 
wards so that, instead of pullulating aimlessly by itself, Spain would 
be able to send out rays of light and energy upon the world. This was 
the force behind the Republic, behind the Socialist and Anarcho- 
Syndicalist movements behind even those patriotic and military 
ideas which prepared the way for Fascism. The following chapters 
will describe the growth of these ideologies and how by the very fact 
of their diversity they ended by producing a situation which was in 
soluble. 



FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER I 

A (p. 8). That well-known authority on Spanish life and letters, A. Morel-Fatio, 
writes as follows in his essay L'Espagne de Don Quichotte: 'The conviction that the 
governor and the magistrate are the born enemies of the feeble and the poor, that they 
belong body and soul to the first person who takes the trouble to suborn them and 
that their acts have no other motive but self-interest : the conviction that posts are 
given only to favour and money and that one only accepts one in order to enrich 
oneself this conviction was firmly established in Cervantes' mind, as indeed in that 
of most of his compatriots. A just judge or a disinterested administration exist only 
by way of exception. The rule is venality, corruption and also incapacity, for what 
need is there for merit, when everything is obtained without it.' (Etudes sur 
FEspagne, I, 1890). 

One may compare with this an extract from the statement of Antonio Maura, the 
eminent Conservative statesman, which he contributed to Joaqufn Costa's Oli- 
garquia y Caciquismo : e It is a tradition in our country that the public authorities 
should not attempt to act so as to enforce the law, to secure justice, to further culture, 
to increase prosperity or to direct the life of the people towards the destinies that its 
peculiar genius and vocation point to. Anyone who speaks merely of what he has 
seen will confess that such desires as have been shown by governments to employ in 
this way their constitutional functions have been ephemeral, incidental and quickly 
suffocated. The variety of programmes, hymns, forms of organization and methods 
for obtaining power . . . have broken the uninterrupted and systematic propensity to 
replace right with arbitrariness or justice and good example with the sordid domina 
tion of the hand which has been able to impose itself.* 

These no doubt have been the opinions of most Spaniards in all ages and from 
whatever class they have come. Yet one ought not to take such opinions quite at their 
face value, but should make some allowance for the idealism of Spaniards in political 
matters and for their abnormal sensitiveness to injustice. No race is more severe in 
its judgements upon these things. Favouritism and commission-taking show as 
blackly in their eyes as embezzlement. Spaniards, as a race, are neither just nor fair, 
but they are honest. Indeed I am inclined to think that if we had in England the 
temptations to dishonesty that there are in Spain, we should not come nearly so well 
out of it. 

B (p. 9). In an official report by the Land Survey Department in 1900 the total 
occultation in land tax returns for Spain was estimated at 38 million acres. The total 
amount of cultivated land in Spain at this time was 43 million acres and 63 million 
acres were pasturage. See Torrez Mufioz, Catastro General Parcelario, Madrid, 
1903, p. 333, quoted by A. Marvaud, UEspagne au XXieme Siecle, p. 248, Note. Also 
Fernando de los Rfos, * Agrarian Problem in Spain', International Labour Review, 
June 1925. 



l6 THE RESTORATION, 1874-1898 

Prime de Rivera's finance minister, Calvo Sotelo, describes the scenes that 
followed when in October 1923, immediately after seizing power, the Dictator 
issued a decree giving a special moratorium during which all concealers of revenue 
must declare their true incomes. For several days on end there were long queues of 
landowners and industrialists anxious to make their peace with the State. * Among 
them', he adds, 'were to be found many people who were extremely well-known: a 
very high percentage consisted of influential and powerful Spaniards.* (Mis Ser- 
vicios al Estado, 1931, p. 124.) 



Chapter II 

THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 
THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 

The Government of Spain is the most perfect that ancient legislators could devise, 
but the corruption of the times has filled it with abuses. From the poor to the rich 
everyone consumes and devours the estate of the king, some taking little bites, the 

nobility large ones and the grandees enormous portions Many think it a miracle 

that the Monarchy is still in existence, 

GIOVANNI CORNARO, Venetian Ambassador at Madrid in 1681-1682. 

The end of the Restoration Period came in 1898 with the war with the 
United States. In a few months Spain lost the last of its colonial 
possessions the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The disaster had 
for many years been predictable. Unless the Cubans, who had risen in 
arms against the shameful misgovernment of the mother country, 
could be granted autonomy, it was certain that the United States 
would interfere. Canovas, who had before him the fatal example of 
Olivares, seems to have understood this, but the jingoistic mood in 
Spain, the insistence of the upper classes and of the Army upon firm 
measures, made concessions impossible. 1 General Weyler was sent 
out to subdue the islanders by fire and by sword and the horrors of his 
concentration camps created a feeling in America which led to inter 
vention. Canovas died from the bullet of an Italian anarchist a few 
months before war broke out. 

The loss of the last relics of the once immense colonial empire pro 
duced consternation in the country, but so little reflection as to its 
causes and so little change of heart that Silvela, the Conservative 

1 Olivares' refusal to renew the twelve years' truce with the Dutch and the fatal 
war with France which followed from this led to the same results as Canovas' 
obstinacy over Cuba that is, to a movement for independence in Catalonia. Thus, 
after more than twenty years of caution and premeditation, Canovas fell into that 
very error which he had determined to avoid. There is an explanation for this. In 
his old age he had married a young and fascinating wife, with whom he was much in 
love. A desire for honour, power and glory, things which he had previously de 
spised, came over him and he began to take up a moreintransigeant line on all political 
questions. This was the easier for him because his temperament was naturally 
impatient and authoritarian. When therefore the upper classes and the Army 
officers began to clamour for war to the death against the Cuban insurgents, Canovas, 
though in his clearer moments he must have foreseen the inevitable result, did not 
lag behind them. 



l8 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

Prime Minister, remarked with despair that he * could scarcely feel the 
pulse of Spain '. Yet this in fact was the lowest moment and the end of 
an era. From now on a new Spain begins. 

Between 1898 and 1931 the date of the advent of the Republic a 
double process is apparent in Spanish history. The main movement, 
the one that is most visible to the eye, is the continued disintegration 
of the various elements that make up the older Spain administration, 
Army, Church, the social classes, the links between the provinces, 
which in the absence of any common plan of life turn on one another 
and attempt to destroy one another. The other process, scarcely 
noticeable at first and never very strong, is a recuperative one, which 
ends, however, by raising the moral and intellectual level of the 
country and for almost the first time since 1680 gives Spain the right to 
be considered as a part (and a valuable part) of modern Europe. 

I will take first of all what is most obvious the politicians and their 
struggle with the Army, on which two other factors, the King and the 
Catalan question, impinge. 

From 1900 to 1923, the date on which Primo de Rivera overthrew 
it, the political regime set up by Canovas was functioning every year 
with greater difficulty. There are two main reasons for this the first, 
that by the mere process of time and by the gradual reawakening of 
public opinion, it was becoming discredited. The second reason was 
the undermining action of the King, which prevented the movement 
for restoring the prestige of the Cortes by free elections from coming 
to a head and so prepared the way for a victory of the Army. 

The politicians were ceasing to be popular. On the deaths of 
Canovas and Sagasta (1897 and 1903) the Conservative and Liberal 
parties both split, and though they closed their ranks soon afterwards 
it was not long before they were again in difficulties. Maura, the new 
Conservative leader, had to be eliminated for his ultra-clerical leanings, 
and Canalejas, the hope of the Liberal party, was shot, as Canovas had 
been, by an anarchist. Elections still continued to be conducted in the 
old way, though with ever-increasing disgust and resentment through 
out the country. After 1910 Republicans and Socialists were begin 
ning to get elected in small numbers in the large towns in spite of the 
immense odds against them, though in the country districts the 
cacique was still unassailable. But one notices as time goes on the 
ever-increasing amount of force that was needed to produce the de 
sired results. More and more frequently police and bands of roughs 
had to be called in to keep away hostile voters, whilst landlords were 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 K) 

obliged to make it clear to their hitherto docile tenants or labourers 
that failure to vote for the right man would bring eviction and dis 
missal. After 1917 it actually became necessary in most provinces to 
buy votes a clear proof that the old practices were breaking down. 

Another disturbing feature of the political machine was the army of 
cesantes or Government employees who lost their posts whenever 
their party went out of office. There was nothing particularly new 
about this : it had been the normal practice in the seventeenth century 
whenever the King dismissed his chief minister, but in the struggle 
between the Army chiefs after the Carlist Wars it was revived on an 
immense scale and became the rule in all succeeding changes of 
government. 1 In an era of coups d'etat and petty revolutions such 
general dismissals might have some justification but as those times 
had now passed and the difference between Liberals and Conserva 
tives had become much more one of men than of principle, it was 
obvious that they served another purpose. 

For the Spanish parliamentary system was simply one more proof 
of how little the ideas of the governing classes had altered since the 
seventeenth century. Under new names, the method was the same. 
The machine that had supported great ministers like Lerma and 
Uceda was little different from that which now supported Dato and 
Romanones. The object in both cases was the private enrichment and 
support of factions, which did not consist merely of a few highly 
placed individuals but penetrated down through modest clerks and 
functionaries to the poorest layers of the people. Spain after all is the 
country where history (and how monotonously!) repeats itself. The 
parasitical condition of Spanish economy since 1580, when Spaniards 
ceased to live by their own enterprise and industry and crowded into 
the offices of the State, has stamped an indelible character on the 
upper and middle classes. 2 

To understand better this immense extension and chronic in 
stability of the bureaucracy one must remember that since the middle 
of the last century, in spite of its strong local and provincial feelings, 
Spain has had one of the most centralized governments in Europe and 
that every country postman, village schoolmaster and customs official 
has owed his appointment to the minister in Madrid. All these petty 
functionaries, together with a host of Government clerks and officials, 
down to the humblest hall porters and hangers-on, have obtained their 

1 See J. Tanski, L'Espagne en 1842 et 1843. 
a See note A on p. 35 at end of chapter. 



20 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

posts through being the retainers of some political person. 1 There 
was practically no civil service and, except for one or two technical 
branches, candidates for the Government service were not troubled 
with competitive examinations. The budget of the State, as Lerroux 
said, was the civil list of a party. 

The result of this state of affairs was an enormous increase in the 
number of Government employees: a decrease in their efficiency, 
since they were not chosen on a competitive basis, and in their 
honesty, since the budget could not provide them with a sufficient 
salary to live on. 2 Every clerkship or secretaryship would be du 
plicated each party having its own nominee and on every change of 
government a large number of these would be thrown out of work 
without a salary. If the opposition party remained too long in power, 
these poor men would be reduced to great distress and their clamour, 
reaching the ears of humane ministers, would sometimes be sufficient 
to produce a change of government. Quitate tuparaponermeyo, 'You 
get out and let me in j , became the main principle of party politics. 

But it was not only Government posts that were in the party 
patronage. The chief industrial concerns in Spain, especially the 
banks and the railways, were closely linked to politics : they depended 
on the politicians to get favourable consideration for their interests, 
whilst the politicians depended on them to get well-paid jobs for 
themselves and their families. As a result most Spanish industries, 
and in particular the railways, were, like the State itself, obliged to 

1 Romanones in his Notas de Una Vida (p. 71) remarks that elections in Spain are 
won by offering jobs and by possessing friends. In explanation of this he gives the 
following extract from one of the daily papers : ' To-day the Alcalde of Madrid, the 
Conde de Romanones, has resigned. To-morrow a special train will leave for 
Guadalajara [Romanones* home town] with the employees of the municipality who 
were appointed by him and are now being replaced.' This notice, which was 
published to annoy him, in fact did him, he says, a great deal o/ good. 

Romanones was a master of electioneering tactics. His successful manipulation of 
the municipal elections in 1910, when the Socialists and Republicans were with 
great difficulty kept out, earned him his grandeeship and the Grand Cross of 
Carlos III. About the deeds of another great faker of elections, the Conservative La 
Cierva, the proverb grew up Mata al rey y vete a Murcia: * Kill the King and go to 
Murcia.' For Murcia was La Cierva's constituency and, so it was said, the worst 
criminals found safe refuge there. One should remember that, till the Republic 
frightened the richer classes into contributing to the Ceda, there were no party 
funds in Spain, so that in one way or another the Government had to pay all elec 
tioneering expenses. 

2 Not all were badly paid. According to Posada the 114 ministers and permanent 
secretaries to the Cortes received 1,469,840 pesetas (about 60,000) a year in 
salaries between them. See A. Posada, Estudios sobre el Regimen Parlamentario en 
Espana, p. 105. Quoted from El Impartial, 7 and 8 March 1890. 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 21 

support large numbers of superfluous directors and lesser employees 
who were certainly not chosen for their efficiency. 

The Cortes itself was no longer what it had been in the last century. 
The debates were duller, now that the great speakers of the past were 
dead. Agriculture, finance and industry were scarcely represented 
most of the deputies being journalists or lawyers, versed only in the 
subtle intricacies and manoeuvres of the game. They formed a small 
and compact class: in 1922, for example, in the last Cortes elected 
before the Dictatorship, 113 deputies were near relations of political 
leaders. 1 The greater part of their time was spent in intrigues destined 
to favour this or that interest or to secure patronage for this or that 
person. One example of this will suffice. A well-known deputy has 
related that every politician kept a little book containing particulars 
of the irregularities and secret abuses committed by the different 
Government departments. When he wanted something from one of 
these and was not attended to, he would consult his little book and put 
down a question upon an embarrassing subject. The minister con 
cerned would meet him afterwards in the lobbies and they would 
come to an understanding. 2 

That such parliaments did little legislation goes without saying; 
for one thing the ministers had no time for preparing it: except for 
two or three permanent officials at the Treasury there were no tech 
nical advisers to assist them, for their subordinates, who changed 
with every government, were untrained and incompetent. They them 
selves spent twelve hours a day on routine work, signing thousands of 
papers and receiving hundreds of people. 3 Custom obliged them to 

1 See Ciges Aparicio, Espana bajo la Dinastia de los Borbones, p. 433. 

2 See A. Posada, op. cit. p. 91. 

3 Some idea of the prodigious amount of paperasserie required in Spanish ad 
ministration will be gathered from the fact that every village with a population of 
more than a thousand had its municipal clerk, a salaried official who usually had as 
much work as he could get through in a ten-hour day. Yet these villages had 
scarcely any municipal services whatever : such questions as roads, drainage, housing, 
electric light, telephones did not exist for them. These clerks or secretarios, I should 
add, played an important role in the cacique system. As they were miserably under 
paid, they could only live by taking bribes. They therefore became the servants of 
the cacique and since, in small villages, they were the only people who understood 
the complicated system of administration, they had all the other municipal officers 
in their power. The most upright alcaldes would find, when a change of government 
brought their term of office to an end, that they had unwittingly broken the law in 
many respects and would now be made to pay the penalty for it. These persecutions 
were part of the ordinary routine of village venganzas. See on this Zugasti, El 
Bandolerismo, Part I, Vol. Ill, pp. 115-238. Although bandits ceased to exist after 
1880, his remarks upon Andalusian caciques and village politics remained largely 
true down to the Dictatorship. 



22 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

receive all applicants and their antechambers were crowded from 
morning to night like a panel doctor's waiting room. Had it not been 
for an autonomous and unpolitical body, the Comision de Reformat 
Societies set up in 1883 by Moret and reorganized in 1903 as the 
Institute de Reformas Saddles, whose business it was to study social 
conditions and prepare laws for remedying them, no legislation of a 
social character would have been passed at all. As it was, the opposi 
tion of the industrialists blocked nearly all attempts at reform: the 
first timid factory acts giving compensation for workmen injured by 
machinery and limiting the hours of work for children were passed in 
1900 1902, but not observed. 1 Some protection was given to preg 
nant women at the same time, and in 1911 factory inspectors were 
appointed, though in such conditions as to make them almost useless. 
This is the sum total of social legislation passed in Spain before 1918. 
A housing act brought in to compel landlords to keep their houses in 
decent repair has never to this day been enforced. The only adminis 
trative act of any importance passed during the first quarter of the 
century was a decree giving a mild amount of devolution to the 
Catalans. 

And yet it would be a mistake to suppose that every Spanish 
politician accepted without protest the state of corruption and stag 
nation to which politics had been reduced. Above the swarm of 
nonentities who only attended the Cortes in order to fish for favours 
for their relations or friends, there were always a number of men, 
among whom must be included the leaders of the different parties, 
who were both honest and capable. But in the tangle of conflicting 
interests in which they had to work, with no pressure of an electorate 
behind them to give them authority, they were powerless. The only 
effective support they could look for was from the King: with his good 
will the legislation which was blocked by the Chamber could be passed 
by decree and ministries could be stabilized. But the King, un 
fortunately, was the last person to be relied upon. 

Alfonso XIII had begun to rule in 1902 on his sixteenth birthday. 
He was a precocious and lively boy who took a keen enjoyment in the 
exercise of his functions, but he had had the disadvantage of a bad up 
bringing and of an insufficient education. 2 The Conde de Romanones 

1 By the act of March 1900 children under 10 were forbidden to work in factories 
unless they could already read. None under 1 6 could work in mines. See A. Marvaud, 
La Question Sociale en Espagne, pp. 235-240. 

2 The King was brought up by a doting mother in an intensely clerical atmo 
sphere. His tutor, Father Montana, was a violent reactionary. He was never sent to 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 23 

has given a vivid account of his first cabinet meeting, held after the 
ceremony of taking the oath to the Constitution. It was a very hot day 
and the ministers returned to the Palace exhausted and hungry after 
the long session in the Cortes. But the King, instead of dismissing 
them, intimated that he wished to hold at once a cabinet council. 
Then, with the air of a man who has been presiding over cabinet 
councils all his life, he made one or two peremptory enquiries as to the 
state of the Army and, following this up, pointed out that, according 
to such and such an article in the Constitution, he had the sole and 
absolute right of granting honours and titles. * I therefore warn you 
that I reserve for myself alone this right.' The Duke of Veragua 
politely replied that, by another article, this was not the case, and 
after a tactful concession by the Prime Minister the cabinet meeting 
ended. But the impression was left of a man who, whatever his other 
qualities might be, was not indifferent to power. 

And unfortunately for Spain, the whole political machine was de 
pendent on him. To obtain a majority in the Chamber, the ministers 
had to be able to make the elections. They could only do this if they 
could secure a decree of dissolution from the King. The King there 
fore, instead of the electorate, became the sole arbiter of governments 
and made them and remade them as he pleased. 

'The Conservative party', wrote the Conde de Romanones in his 
Memoirs, ' in order to remain in power a little over two years (from 
December 1902 to July 1905) passed through five total crises with 
five prime ministers and sixty-six new ministers.' The cause of this, 
he went on to say, lay in the weakness of the parties and in the in 
trigues of the King, 'who seemed to enjoy changing frequently the 
persons to whom, more or less completely, he gave his confidence'. 

The two and a half years that followed saw seven different cabinets, 
due to the same cause. 1 It is unlikely that the King had at this time 
any definite plan for discrediting the parliamentary regime or for 
moving towards a more personal rule. It was merely that he had 

finish his education abroad. As he was a spirited boy he reacted against the stuffy 
atmosphere of this court and found encouragement in the only other people with 
whom he had any contact his military attache's. Thus the Army came to stand in 
his eyes for everything that was manly and heroic. Probably these simple romantic 
feelings played as large a part in bringing about his downfall as the political intrigues 
for which he developed a sort of mania or the absorption in purely dynastic interests 
of which he is so often accused. 

1 The first twenty-one years of Alfonso's reign from 1902 to 1923 saw thirty- 
three entirely different governments. In the sixteen years of the Queen Regent's 
administration there were only eleven. 



24 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

power and that he enjoyed using it. The strain of frivolity and un 
reliability that came into the Spanish Bourbon family from Maria 
Luisa, the queen painted by Goya, was evident in his character. -But 
the results were the same as though he had deliberately tried to 
sabotage the Constitution. Any hopes that the more honest and in 
telligent politicians conceived of restoring some decency to politics or 
even of passing the most obvious and necessary legislation were 
thwarted by the King. Whether from love of power, instability of 
character or sheer ignorance of the social conditions in his country, he 
regularly and unfailingly wrecked them. 

Perhaps the political machine could have gone on running quietly 
for some time longer, scattering its benefits upon a small ruling caste 
and their retainers, if a problem had not appeared, too urgent to be 
put aside, yet far too serious to be solved by such a discredited body. 
This was the Catalan question. For more than twenty years it 
poisoned the political atmosphere in Spain much as the Irish question 
had poisoned that in England with the difference, however, that 
Catalonia is not a backward and impoverished island, but the chief 
industrial district of the Peninsula. 

The Catalan question is, to begin with, merely one rather special 
instance of the general problem of Spanish regionalism. The Iberian 
Peninsula, as everyone knows, is divided by mountain ranges and by 
variations of altitude into regions which are climatically and geogra 
phically very different from one another. At Valencia, for example, 
rice is grown and dates ripen, whilst Burgos, a bare 200 miles away, 
has a climate resembling that of Poland. These regional variations 
have led to the growth of strong local patriotisms, which whenever 
the power of the central government is relaxed, come to a head. 
During the Peninsular War, for example, some twenty or so provincial 
juntas declared themselves independent and one, the Junta of Murcia, 
having occasion to treat with the British Government, wrote that 
their province desired to treat with it 'not as one shopkeeper with 
another, but as one court with another court and as one sovereign 
nation with another sovereign nation'. Again in 1873, during the 
brief rule of the Federal Republic, all except one of the cities of the 
south-east from Seville to Valencia remembered their origins as 
Mediterranean city-states and declared themselves free ports and in 
dependent cantons, acknowledging no central authority. And there 
has scarcely been a peasant rising since 1840 when some village or 
other has not called a full assembly of all its inhabitants and declared 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 25 

itself a free and independent state. Yet I think it would be a mistake 
to take these movements as showing a real and fixed desire for inde 
pendence of Madrid. The economic unity of Spain has long been 
recognized by every educated person. They are to a great extent 
simply protests against bad government. 

The Catalan question however is somewhat different. Both lin 
guistically and culturally Catalonia was originally an extension of the 
south of France rather than a part of Spain and, under the rich 
merchant class which ruled it during the Middle Ages, it acquired an 
active, enterprising character and a European outlook very different 
from that of its semi-pastoral neighbours on the interior plateaux. The 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were its period of greatest pros 
perity. First under the Counts of Barcelona and then incorporated in 
the Crown of Aragon it monopolized the carrying trade of the Western 
Mediterranean and extended its rule over Naples and Sicily, but the 
discovery of America and the ruin of the Mediterranean trade by the 
Turks led to a decline. It was not however till the seventeenth 
century, 150 years after its union with Castile, when the prestige of 
the Crown had begun to decline, that there was any question of a 
separatist movement. 

Spain then was still the same confederation of loosely connected 
states which it had been in 1500. The provinces which belonged to the 
Crown of Castile had some cohesion, though the Basque provinces 
might be regarded as semi-independent republics, and the Asturians 
and Galicians retained their local laws and privileges, but of the four 
kingdoms and one county incorporated in the Crown of Aragon 
(Valencia, Majorca, Aragon and Barcelona) each had its own laws 
and parliament and the King could neither raise money nor send 
foreign (i.e. Castilian) troops into their territory without obtaining 
their permission. So foreign indeed was Castile to a member of the 
Aragonese Confederation that the Catalans maintained consuls in 
Andalusia and were not permitted to trade with America. 1 Neither 

1 In 1596 Philip II gave permission to subjects of the Crown of Aragon to reside 
in America, but in fact obstacles were put in their way and they could not do 
business there till much later. And until 1717 Seville held a monopoly in all colonial 
trade. 

It is interesting to speculate on what would have happened had it been Ferdinand 
and not Isabella who put down the money for Columbus* voyage. It would then 
have fallen to the Catalans and the Valencians to open up America, and Castile 
would have been excluded. One can hardly doubt that the whole course and 
character of Spanish history would have been different: the decline in the seventeenth 
century would not have occurred because the development of trade, industry and 



26 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

Philip II nor his successors made any attempt to build up a more 
centralized state. The unity of Spain was held to lie not in its political 
ties but in its ideology that is, in its religion and the guardian of 
this unity was the Inquisition. 

When Olivares, however, became chief minister in 1623 two things 
were becoming apparent: the economic decline of Spain was pro 
ceeding at a tremendous pace and the wars in Holland and Germany, 
which had no connection with Spanish interests but were undertaken 
in support of religion, were hastening it. The Catalans were naturally 
the first Spaniards to grasp this and to draw the obvious deductions 
from it. On the other hand Olivares perceived, what was also true, 
that in the inevitable duel which was approaching with France, 
France would win because she was a centralized country. 1 He there 
fore drew up secret plans for modifying the jealously guarded pri 
vileges of the Catalans and of the other autonomous regions. The 
Catalans got wind of this and on Corpus Christi Day 1640, in the 
middle of a war with France, they rose and placed themselves under 
the protection of the French king. Their rebellion was the signal for a 
successful rising in Portugal and for unsuccessful movements in 
Andalusia and in Aragon. (There had been a previous rebellion of the 
Basques a few years earlier.) Barcelona did not submit till 1652, and 
the war continued in the mountains till 1659, when it was ended by 
the Peace of the Pyrenees, by which Spain surrendered the northern 
most province of Catalonia, Roussillon, and the district of the Cerdagne, 
to France. The Government was too weak to impose any penalties on 
the Catalans. 

agriculture in Spain would have prevented it. On the other hand the work of 
colonization would have suffered. The energy with which the Castilians explored, 
conquered and settled America was beyond the power of any other nation at that 
time. It has something of the sweep and magnificence of the conquests made by the 
Arab tribes after the death of Mohammed. Both were the work of men who were 
very lightly attached to the soil and who were born hungry. 

1 When Olivares asked the Catalans how, in their opinion, the ills of Spain could 
be remedied: 'Stay at home', was the answer. Depopulate the country, cultivate 
our fields, fortify our cities, open our ports to commerce and re-establish our fac 
tories. . . the treasure from America should be spent on this and not on senseless and 
disgraceful wars.' Quoted by Manuel Puges, Como triun/6 el Proteccionismo en 
Espana, p. 43, from a German economist, Scherer. 

The Catalan question was therefore the same in 1640 as it was in 1900. But 
Olivares* view is also comprehensible : * Foreign politicians say that the Monarchy of 
Spain is merely a fantastical body defended by general opinion but not by sub 
stance.' (See Nicandro a book written or inspired by Olivares to justify him after 
his disgrace.) For Spain was then, as Britain in 1938, a lazy and satisfied world 
power, whose authority was menaced by the rise of a new state far better organized 
for war than she was. 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 27 

Less than forty years later, in the War of the Spanish Succession, 
the Catalans again rose against Madrid and offered their support to 
the Allies. But when they failed and Barcelona was stormed after a 
dreadful siege, they found that they no longer had the mild descen 
dants of Philip II to make their peace with, but Bourbon princes who 
had learned autocracy at the court of Louis XIV. The Castle of 
Montjuich was built to dominate Barcelona, the six Catalan univer 
sities were suppressed and a new foundation made under the eye 
of the King at Cervera, whilst the Catalan fueros or liberties were 
abolished. 1 In exchange they obtained encouragement for their new 
industries and later on in the century some rights in trading with 
America, and with this they were for a while contented. 

The centralizing policy of the Bourbons was continued in the next 
century by their political heirs, the Liberals. The only question be 
tween Catalonia and Madrid was now that of tariffs. The Catalans 
demanded sufficiently high tariffs on manufactured articles to keep 
out all English and French competition, and the Liberals, though 
they yielded in fact to most of these demands, were nominally free 
traders. 2 In the forties the Catalan manufacturers organized them 
selves in an Instituto Industrial de Cataluna, chiefly to defend high 
tariffs, and in 1869, when the revolution had brought in a genuinely 
free-trade government, this body was reorganized as the famous 
Fomento de Trabajo National. A protectionist policy returned in 1874 
with Canovas, but every commercial treaty with France or England 
raised protests in Barcelona. 

Meanwhile the modern Catalan movement was beginning. Cata 
lonia had lost between 1822 and 1837 ^ er P ena l l aw > ^ er commercial 
law, her coinage, her special tribunals, even her right to use Catalan in 
the schools without any protest. But very soon after that a revival of 
Catalan national feeling began. At first it was purely literary. In the 
fifties there were competitions between Catalan poets, and mediaeval 
festivals such as the Joes Florals were revived. The sixties saw a 
revival of the language (which had ceased to be spoken except in the 

1 Yet more than seventy years later Arthur Young was shocked to see that the 
Catalans were still treated as a subject race and that their nobility were forbidden to 
wear swords. 

2 The fall of the Liberal dictatorship of Espartero in 1843, in spite of the immense 
position he had obtained as victor in the Carlist War, was largely due to the oppo 
sition of the Catalan factory owners to the commercial treaty he was preparing 
with England, which would have allowed Manchester cottons to compete with 
Catalan manufactures. On the question of tariffs Madrid has always given way to 
Barcelona. 



28 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

villages) and the foundation of the first newspaper in Catalan and of a 
theatre for Catalan plays. The federal movement of 1868 1873 was 
welcomed by intellectuals in Barcelona, and it is scarcely an accident 
that three of the leading figures of the revolutionary period Prim, 
Pi y Margall and Figueras were Catalans. But it was the final defeat 
of the Carlists in 1876 that turned Catalan Nationalism into a serious 
movement. 

The countryside in Catalonia had always been Carlist: the small 
landowners and farmers had fought fanatically for the first Don 
Carlos, and though they had shown less enthusiasm for his grandson, 
they had not abandoned their opinions. Carlism in the last century 
implied not merely extreme clericalism, but devolution and local 
liberties. By associating itself with the demand for these the 
Church had found champions for its cause both among the Basques 
and in Catalonia. When therefore Carlism was defeated for the second 
time and its cause was seen to be irretrievably lost, it was natural for 
the Church, both in the Basque provinces and in Catalonia, to throw 
its influence on to the side of the rising autonomous movements. In 
Catalonia the Bishop of Vich became one of the leaders of the nation 
alist party, and not only the specifically Carlist families, but practically 
the whole of the rich upper-middle classes of Barcelona, who as a 
matter of course had clerical leanings, joined it. Till 1900 therefore 
and indeed, except for a short interlude, down to 1923 Catalan 
Nationalism was a predominantly Right-wing movement. 

There existed also, however, a Left wing, which, though numeri 
cally weak, was important because it included most of the intellectuals 
and had a strong influence in the drawing up of the combined Catalan 
programme. It too had sprung from the defeat of one of the extreme 
revolutionary parties by the oligarchy of the Restoration: in this case 
the federals of Pi y Margall, to which its leader, Almirall, had originally 
belonged. In 1886 he published his famous book Lo Catalanisme, 
which summed up the aims and history of Catalan Nationalism and 
indicated the course along which it was to develop. The culmination 
of this stage of the movement came with the drawing up in 1892 of the 
Bases de Manresa a far-reaching political programme, incompatible 
either with economic facts or with Spanish unity, but subscribed to 
enthusiastically by both the Right and the Left wing Catalan parties. 
The cultural campaign started by Prat de la Riba in the Renaixensa 
a couple of years later was a parallel development. 

The next stage came with the entry on the scenes of economic 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 29 

factors. The loss of Cuba, in which, the Catalan industrialists had 
large interests, provoked a feeling of anger against Madrid, to whose 
intransigeance it was held to have been due. This was not altogether 
just, for the opposition of the Catalan mill-owners to Cuban autonomy 
had been one of the factors that had led to the disaster, but their 
complaints of the incompetent way in which the affairs of the country 
were managed by Madrid, of the scandals of the administration, of the 
huge sums spent upon an army which was always defeated when it 
took the field and of the general indifference of the Government to 
trade and commerce were better founded. It was the old complaint of 
Catalonia against Castile, based upon fundamentally different con 
ceptions of government, and reinforced by special grievances. ' We in 
Catalonia must sweat and toil so that ten thousand drones in the 
Madrid Government offices may live', the Catalans would say. And 
they would go on to point out that, although their population was only 
one-eighth of that of Spain, they paid one-quarter of the State taxes 
and that only one-tenth of the total budget came back to their province. 
These were much the same complaints that their ancestors had ex 
pressed in 1640. It was a point of view natural to a trading and 
manufacturing community which finds itself under the rule of an 
oligarchy that, though in many respects more cultured than them 
selves, 1 had no serious urge towards money making and asked only to 
be allowed to continue its own torpid, agreeable existence. And it was 
when this feeling came to a head among the Catalan manufacturers 
and merged with the clerical sentiments of the clases acomodadas or 
* comfortable classes ' of the large towns and with the Carlist traditions 
of the country districts, that Catalan Nationalism became for the first 
time a powerful and disintegrating force in Spanish politics. A party 
was formed, the Lliga Regionalista or 'Regionalist League', com 
prising all the various Right-wing elements and in Francisco Cambo, the 
President of the Fomento (later also the President of the Chade, the 
principal electrical company in Spain, and director of various banking 
houses), it had the good luck to find an intelligent and active leader. 

1 Visitors to Barcelona must often have noticed with amazement the architecture 
in which the nouveau-riche, ultra-Catholic bourgeoisie of this period expressed at the 
same time their ardent nationalism and their pride in their money. The villas of the 
Tibidabo are built so as to avoid right angles even in the doors or windows, because 
the right angle is 'not found in Nature*. That vast, unfinished, neo-gothic church, 
the Sagrada Familia, is decorated with stone friezes and mouldings representing the 
fauna and flora, the gastropods and lepidoptera of Catalonia, enlarged mechanically 
from nature so as to obtain absolute accuracy. Not even in the European architec 
ture of the period can one discover anything quite so vulgar or pretentious. 



30 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

In 1901 this party, usually known simply as the Lliga, won a famous 
and unexpected victory at the polls and the struggle for Catalan 
autonomy commenced in earnest. 

Barcelona now and for the next twenty years became the scene of 
extraordinarily complicated and unscrupulous manoeuvres: radical 
Republicans contested elections with the secret support of Conser 
vative Madrid: gangsters were taken into the pay of the Government, 
the anarchists were provoked or egged on and the police themselves 
laid bombs at the doors of peaceful citizens in an endeavour either to 
intimidate the Catalan Nationalists or to produce a state of affairs in 
which the Constitutional guarantees could be suspended. By 1923 the 
situation had so deteriorated that the Lliga were almost glad to see 
their worst enemies, the Army, come into power *to restore order*. 
But since it was during these years and out of this confused struggle 
that the forces which led to the civil war were prepared, it will be 
necessary to examine them in greater detail. 

The first reply to the Catalan movement was the rise and rapid 
spread in Barcelona of a Left-wing Republican party, known as 
the Radicals. Their leader was a young journalist called Alejandro 
Lerroux. The extraordinary violence of his speeches, his incitements 
to kill priests, to sack and burn churches and to overthrow the rich 
generally brought him large audiences in this excitable and predomi 
nantly Left-wing city. 1 The police did not interfere with his meetings, 
the Governor and the military obligingly stood aside and in 1903 he 
defeated the Lliga at the elections. Lerroux was acclaimed as the 
Caudillo or * Leader' and as Emperor of the Paralelo as the quarter 
of slums and brothels in Barcelona is called and the politicians in 
Madrid continued to shut their eyes mysteriously to his violent in 
citements. For he was an anti-Catalanist and the Catalan Nationalists 
could not make much progress so long as he controlled the lower- 
middle classes of the city. 

But events were now developing rapidly. In 1905 the Government 
of Antonio Maura refused its support to Lerroux and the Radicals 

1 Some idea of Lerroux's oratory in these days may be gathered from the fol 
lowing extract: * Young barbarians of to-day, enter and sack the decadent civilization 
of this unhappy country; destroy its temples, finish off its gods, tear the veil from its 
novices and raise them up to be mothers to civilize the species. Break into the 
records of property and make bonfires of its papers that fire may purify the infamous 
social organization. Enter its humble hearths and raise the legions of proletarians 
that the world may tremble before their awakened judges. Do not be stopped by 

altars nor by tombs Fight, kill, die/ Quoted by Fernandez Almagro, op. cit. 

from an article by Lerroux in La Rebeldia for i September 1906. 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 31 

were therefore defeated by the Lliga at the elections. la the excite 
ment produced by this some Army officers raided and burned two 
newspaper offices which had published cartoons reflecting discredit 
upon the Army, and the incident led to a situation in which a Liberal 
government was forced, by the threat of a military rising, to pass a law 
(the Law of Jurisdictions) by which every offence however trivial 
against the Army, the Police, or the Nation (la Patrid) was to be tried 
by court martial. Since the Army was the most uncompromising 
opponent of Catalan Nationalism or of any derogation, even slight, of 
central authority, this law was naturally interpreted as a threat to 
Catalan interests and the various Catalan National parties, from 
Carlists to anti-clerical Republicans, formed a united front (Soli- 
daridad Cataland) with Cambo and the Lliga at its head. This was so 
effective that in January 1907 they won an overwhelming victory at 
the elections, in spite of the Government's employing every possible 
device to prevent it, including an attempt on Cambo's life. 

Spanish political history is full of the strangest paradoxes. The 
Government responsible for keeping order at these elections and for 
the police terror that followed was that of Don Antonio Maura. Now 
Maura was a man of distinction and integrity who in certain respects 
occupies a niche above all the other politicians of Alfonso's reign. 
His mere presence when he came into a room silenced people: al 
though of Jewish origin (he was a chueta from the Balearic Islands) he 
was the only Spaniard whom the King did not address as tu. It is true 
that, even by Spanish standards, he was a reactionary. He was auto 
cratic, clerical, opposed in his whole nature to compromise. Spain 
abounds in men who believe that they alone can tap the pure and 
unadulterated source of Spanish traditions and project it upon the 
future and that everyone who disagrees with them is necessarily per 
verse and wicked and must be overridden. This was Maura's case. He 
was a Carlist who accepted the parliamentary system and the King. 
But he also believed that government can only exist with the consent 
of the governed. At the time of the Cuban War, he had strongly 
urged that the Cubans must be given home rule and now he saw that a 
certain measure of devolution must be offered to the Catalans. This 
was also a Carlist position. And Maura further believed in purifying 
the elections and destroying the caciques and thus restoring to poli 
tical life the dignity and disinterestedness which, he believed, it had 
once long ago possessed. His Government, therefore, when it took 
office in 1907, came in on a wind of hope and faith in better things, 



32 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

very refreshing after the feebleness and disreputabieness of the Liberal 
governments. By the mere force of his personality, it was thought, 
Maura would overcome the old dragons of parliamentary corruption 
and sterility, settle the Catalan question and give the country pure 
standards of political life. 1 

And then, to the surprise of everyone, he chose for his Home 
Secretary La Cierva, the most notorious of all the politicians of the 
period and a master in the arts of electoral falsification. In every sub 
sequent Government of Maura's La Cierva was his right-hand man 
and the elections held under him were the most corrupt of the century. 
We shall come, when we deal with the Anarchists, to other cases in 
which the pure idealist is linked to and necessarily depends upon the 
man of base or violent instincts. For Maura's ideal of pure elections 
was based upon his belief that free electors would necessarily return 
him to the Cortes with a large majority. As there was not in fact the 
least prospect of their doing so, it became necessary, if Maurism was 
not to destroy itself, for some of his followers to forget their ideals and 
fake the returns. 2 

The first year of La Cierva's rule at the Home Office saw therefore 
an extraordinary outburst of bomb throwing and assassination in 

1 Most of the pure idealists, the quixotic and disinterested figures who have 
come to the front in Spanish politics in recent times, belong to the Left, so that 
there is a special interest in understanding the character of one who belongs to the 
extreme Right. Maura is a figure who could not have existed in any other country. 
His distinction, his reserve, his humanity put him in another world from French 
royalists such as Maurras ; also his extraordinary egotism his belief that his party 
was so profoundly rooted in the Spanish conscience and in Castilian traditions that 
it did not need to put forward a programme. Nosotros somos nosotros he declared in 
an election speech that has become famous : * We are ourselves. We have no need of 
any other symbol : that is our ensign. Let us be moved as patriots by the desire to 
serve Spain.* He preached a * revolution from above * : Nosotros somos incompatibles 
con las digestiones sosegadas. Yet his followers were simply those middle-class 
provincial families, the inert or ' passive classes ' as they are called, who believe that 
good government consists in keeping everything as it is and in suppressing by force 
anyone who has a grievance. Maura, with all his Jewish-Iberian self-confidence, 
simply did not know what to do when he came into power. If it is true that, since 
Canovas, there has been no Spanish politician of the same calibre, it is also true that 
no politician has been so ineffective. 

2 Canovas had of course been in the same predicament and had solved it in the 
same way by allowing Romero Robledo to organize the elections for him. But 
Canovas had chosen this path deliberately, as Walpole had done in the reign of 
George I, because it was the only means open to him of securing a spell of peace in 
which the country could develop its material resources, free from the squabblings of 
generals and court officials and from the periodic revolutions which their rule 
always ended by bringing about. This situation, once established, ceased to be in 
his control. Yet, but for the early death of Alfonso XII, it is possible that a real 
parliamentary regime based on free elections might have grown up. 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 33 

Barcelona. Within a short space of time some two thousand bombs 
exploded in the streets. They were for the most part directed against 
the premises of Catalan factory owners belonging to the Lliga. But 
there were certain peculiar features about these crimes which aroused 
suspicion: no dynamiters were ever caught in the act and the work 
men who were accused by the police spies could often prove alibis. In 
the end, after an English detective had been brought over to investi 
gate, it was discovered that they were in nearly every case committed 
by a band of gangsters and agents provocateurs in the pay of the police. 
The leader, Juan Rull, and his chief accomplices were tried and con 
victed, but though the complicity of the late Governor of Barcelona, 
the Duke of Bivona, was made clear, nothing was done to bring him to 
justice and the further ramifications of the affair were hushed up. 1 
But the bomb throwing went on and La Cierva, who had already 
introduced repressive measures, was able finally to suspend the Con 
stitutional guarantees and to place the city under military law a 
situation which was of course prejudicial to the Catalan Nationalists. 
An impartial reader may well wonder whether such a story as this 
can be true : it was not at this time a normal practice for Conservative 
governments to pay gangsters to intimidate rich factory owners. But 
even such a writer as Sefior Madariaga, anxious, as he always is, not 
to give a bad impression abroad of his country, fully admits it. It 
cannot be accidental, he says, that anarchist outbursts have invariably 
occurred at moments when Catalan Nationalists have been giving 
signs of special vitality, thus leading to repressive measures which 
reacted chiefly against Catalan national interests. And he attributes 
the freedom from anarchist outrages during the Dictatorship to the 
fact that Catalan Nationalism was then suppressed. 2 One might add 
that the outrages again ceased when the Catalans were allowed to 
govern themselves. Indeed the first bombs thrown in Barcelona 
coincide with the promulgation of the Bases de Manresa, the earliest 

1 See on these incidents Madariaga, Spain, p. 379; Ciges Aparicio, op. at. p. 404; 
Fernandez Alrnagro, op. cit.; F. Madrid, Ocho Meses y un Dla en el Gobierno Civil 
de Barcelona. 

2 This is Cambd's opinion. 'In order', he wrote, 'to fight against a Catalonia 
which was beginning to lift its head Spanish governments set on foot every kind of 
demagogic agitation. But, as was only to be expected, the bacillus which was 
scattered through the country did not keep to the field allotted to it. If one day we 
discover what were the deepest causes of the acts to which Canovas, Canalejas and 
Dato amongst others fell victims, it will come to light that there existed a bond 
between them and those anarchist ferments which have been cultivated in Catalonia 
by the Madrid governments themselves/ Quoted by Sieberer, Katalonien gegen 
Kastilien, pp. 152-155. 



34 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME AND 

manifesto of Catalan Nationalism, in 1892, and acts of violence con 
tinued to grow and to wane in intensity with the periodic rise and 
decline of Catalan national feeling. As an English observer remarked 
in 1909, if one asked a workman in Barcelona where the bombs 
came from, he replied, 'Don't you know? They are made by the 
Jesuits.' 1 

In July 1909 there occurred one of those small disasters in Morocco 
which the incompetence and lack of organization of the Spanish Army 
were always provoking. A column of troops advancing a few miles 
beyond Melilla to take possession of some iron mines for which the 
Conde de Romanones had recently obtained the concession was am 
bushed by a handful of Moors and almost destroyed. To replace them 
the War Office called up the reserves in Catalonia. 

It was a stupid and no doubt a deliberately provocative act. Since 
the disastrous war in Cuba and the return of thousands of starving and 
malaria-ridden troops, the whole country had been strongly pacifist. 
The reserves consisted of married men of the working classes, for in 
Spain no one who could afford the small sum required to buy himself 
out was ever conscripted. The iron mines were believed to be the 
property of the Jesuits, who in the eyes of one half of Spain occupied 
much the same position as they did in England after the Gun 
powder Plot. There were painful scenes at the station when the troops 
left, and the next day the whole city rose. 

For six years Lerroux had been urging the populace to sack, burn 
and kill. Now that the moment had come he and his fellow- Radicals 
kept out of the way, but his young followers, the Jovenes Barbaras, or 
'Young Barbarians' as they called themselves, let themselves go. The 
result was five days of mob rule, in which the union leaders lost all 
control of their men and twenty-two churches and thirty-four con 
vents were burned. Monks were killed, tombs were desecrated and 
strange and macabre scenes took place, as when workmen danced in 
the street with the disinterred mummies of nuns. 

The riot was suppressed severely by La Cierva. One hundred and 
seventy-five workmen were shot in the streets and executions followed 
afterwards. Among the victims was Francisco Ferrer, a theoretical 
anarchist who had founded a school, the Escuela Moderna, where 
anti-religious instruction was given. There was no evidence to show 
that he had been implicated in the rising, which was a spontaneous 
affair, not part of an anarchist plot, and he was not even living in 

1 Rafael Shaw, Spain from Within, pp. 133-180. 



THE CATALAN QUESTION, 1898-1909 35 

Barcelona at the time. 1 But he was generally regarded as having been 
the instigator of an attempt on the life of the King three years before 
by a young pupil and intimate friend of his called Morral and the 
opportunity was taken to get rid of him. However, this was a political 
error, for Ferrer was well known abroad and his death made an im 
pression which in his life he had done little to deserve. Maura's 
Government fell and such was the aversion that his name had created 
that he had to resign the leadership of his party and it was nearly ten 
years before he and La Cierva were able to come back. The era in 
augurated thirty months before with such hope had ended in complete 
failure; even the law giving a feeble measure of autonomy to the 
Catalans had been thrown out by the Chamber, though Canalejas was 
able to pass a similar law conceived on more generous lines three years 
later. But one effect of the riots in Barcelona was the ruin of the 
Radical party. The workmen who had followed Lerroux believed, 
when they saw him fail to stand up to his word, that he had sold him 
self to Madrid and they abandoned his party for the Anarchists. The 
Radicals became mild and respectable and the Emperor of the 
Paralelo himself exchanged without too deep a regret his wooden 
tribune and his open shirt for the comfortable armchairs and starched 
collars of the plutocracy. 

1 According to the Civil Governor, Sefior Ossorio y Gallardo, the riots were not 
anarchist, but had confused objects. They were made much worse, in his opinion, 
by calling out the troops. A letter from the veteran anarchist Anselmo Lorenzo to 
his friend, Tarrida del Mdrmol, dated 3 1 July, confirms this : * What is happening 
here is amazing. A Social Revolution has broken out in Barcelona and it has been 
started by the people. No one has instigated it. No one has led it. Neither Liberals, 
nor Catalan Nationals, nor Republicans, nor Socialists, nor Anarchists.* (Anselmo 
Lorenzo^ by Federica Montseny, p. 30). 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER II 

A (p. 35). Some quotations from foreign observers will enable -one to appreciate 
the very similar character of Spanish administration in the seventeenth century. 
The Relations of the Venetian Ambassadors are particularly enlightening. 

Pietro Basadonna (1649-1653): 'One must put away entirely the common idea 
that the Spaniards are prudent and understand that there is no nation in the world 
more ignorant of good government, or more inclined to destruction: indeed it is 
only when one has seen how execrably they manage their private affairs that one 
finds it possible to believe all that one is told of public affairs' (p. 202). 

Frederico Cornaro (1678-1681): * To begin with the tax collectors retain most of 
the revenues. Then officials* salaries absorb large sums of money: there is not a 
person scarcely who does not live on the King or who, if he lacked a salary from him, 
could maintain himself on his own income, whilst the chief nobles, supported at 
court by remunerative posts, have entirely abandoned their own properties' (p. 455). 

Giovanni Cornaro (1681-1682) repeats this at greater length. I have put a quota 
tion from him at the head of the chapter. 



36 THE PARLIAMENTARY REGIME 

Sebastiano Foscarini (1682-1686): Everyone who can lives at the expense of the 
State. The number of all the Government posts has been increased. In the Treasury- 
alone there are more than 40,000 clerks, many of whom draw twice the pay that is 
assigned to them. Yet their accounts are 'wrapped in impenetrable and perhaps 
malicious obscurity' and it is impossible * to get any order or number out of them'. 
Exorbitant pensions are granted to important persons : only the poor pay taxes ; of 
those taxes and of the gold of the treasure fleet only a fraction ever reaches the 
Treasury. It is remarkable that the kingdom is able to carry on at all. 

The Marquis de Villars, who was French ambassador from 1679 to 1681 and who 
had a long experience of the country, fully corroborates this. The taxes were 
crushing, yet only a fraction ever reached the King because 24,000 men were 
employed in collecting them. Three-quarters of the King's share of the treasure 
ships was never put down. Such money as did reach the Treasury was spent upon 
the infinite numbers of officials and pensioners, who did nothing whatever to earn it. 
The Inquisition alone had 20,000 familiars in its pay. To such extremities was the 
King reduced that one year all his servants gave notice and the ladies and gentlemen 
of the bedchamber could not get meals in the Palace. The cost of living in Madrid 
was enormous because the municipality imposed such customs and taxes, spending 
all the money they got on themselves. All the judges took bribes and no one who 
could pay was ever sentenced. Those who could not pay were not sentenced either, 
as there was no money to maintain the prisons, so that both thefts and murders went 
unpunished. 

1 Une partie de PEspagne vit de. . . frauder les droits du Roi ; 1'autre vit, c'est a dire 
vole, dans les emplois de finance ou de justice et le reste meurt de faim. . . . Ceux 
qui n'ont point vu 1'Espagne en cet etat auront de la peine a le comprendre.* 

It may be said that these accounts apply only to a period of extreme decadence. 
But all the beginnings of this state of affairs existed a hundred years before in full 
Siglo de Oro. It was only the degree that differed. Such was the price that Spain 
had to pay for being, in gold and silver, the richest nation in the world. 



Chapter III 
THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

The Anarchists have destroyed many churches, 

but the clergy had first destroyed the Church. Jos6 CASTILLEJO. 

The next seven years represent a pause In Spanish history. A few 
days of rioting and the fall of the Government responsible for it had 
released the tension that, since 1906, had been accumulating in Bar 
celona. The Anarchists were busy organizing a new trades union, the 
Confederation National del Trabajo, in imitation of the French C.G.T. 
and in rivalry with the Socialists. The Catalan Nationalists had been 
frightened by the riots and were keeping quiet. Their united front, 
Solidaridad Catalana, had broken up over the religious question (that 
is to say, the tactics of the Government had been successful) and the 
Lliga, with somewhat reduced enthusiasm, became once again the only 
serious representative of Catalan ambitions. But it had been momen 
tarily appeased by a new schedule of tariffs which gave Catalonia a 
complete monopoly of the home market and by a moderate measure of 
devolution (the Law of Mancomunidades) which after endless dis 
cussion in the Cortes it had obtained by decree in 1913. The Kong, too, 
had been warned at Edward VIFs funeral of the danger of moving too 
far along the path of reaction and with a change of tone that came 
easily to him he proclaimed himself a good Liberal and even flirted 
with the Republicans. 

For several years therefore Conservative and Liberal governments 
peaceably succeeded one another and, though most of the faults of the 
regime remained, a real public opinion was growing up in the large 
towns and occasionally even asserting itself in the elections. The 
omens for the commencement of a more healthy state of affairs began 
to appear favourable. In the industrial and mining centres a series of 
strikes raised the wages of the workmen, and the Conservatives in 
terested themselves in improving their condition by legislation. In 
fact little could be done, but the Institute of Social Reforms and the 
National Assurance Institute (Instituto de Prevision), two autonomous 
bodies set up by previous governments, were encouraged to explore 
the ground and to prepare schemes which could be adopted. The 
work performed by these bodies was admirable and the encourage- 



38 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

ment given them by the governments, which rarely had the strength 
to put in practice their feeblest proposals, was at least a proof of their 
good intentions. 

The Liberals, on the other hand, resumed the monotonous struggle 
with the Church which, since they first came into existence in the 
Cortes of 1810, had been their main business in life. The con 
test suddenly became acute after 1900. During the last twenty-five 
years the Church had been steadily growing in strength and financial 
resources. Its militants the monastic orders and the Jesuits were 
more numerous and more disciplined than ever and its treasure chest 
was full. It had never resigned itself to the loss of the dominating 
position it had once held in the State and now the death of Canovas, 
who had kept it out of politics, and the appearance of the clerical 
party of Maura seemed to offer it an opportunity for taking another 
step along the road to power. On the other hand the forces of anti- 
clericalism had been growing also : they had on their side the whole 
trend of contemporary European thought, and the recent triumph of 
their party in France and the disestablishment of the French Church 
had greatly encouraged them. 

The first shock came in January 1901 with the production of P6rez 
Galdos' anti-clerical play Electra. The young King's tutor and con 
fessor Father Montana had written an article in El Siglo Futuro 
asserting that Liberalism was a sin. Feeling against the Church ran 
high and this play by the greatest of Spanish novelists polarized 
opinion. The struggle at once began. The chief points at issue were 
the limitation of the number of the religious orders, the toleration of 
other religions and the control of education. But far from gaining 
ground the Liberals found that they were barely able to hold their 
own. Two years of struggle (1910 1912) to compel the religious 
orders to conform to the Concordat of 1851 and to the established law 
of the country failed. A circular ordering the collection of taxes from 
unregistered religious communities which were engaged in trade and 
industry had to be withdrawn. The only advance made (and that was 
not made without the violent protest of the bishops, processions by 
fashionable ladies through the streets of Madrid and remonstrances 
from the Vatican) was the permission granted to the Protestant 
Churches to erect a cross or other symbol over their doors. It was 
said that the English king refused to visit Madrid unless this were 
allowed. The support given by the richer classes to the Church 
enabled it to withstand the pressure of public opinion. But if the 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 39 

religious question and the violent feelings it aroused are to be made 
clear it will be necessary to speak at greater length of the history of the 
Catholic Church in Spain and of its relation with the State. 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was no real political 
unity in Spain. Half a dozen kingdoms, each with its own adminis 
tration, its own laws and Cortes, lived side by side. The only political 
link between them was the King, and his power, wherever individual 
rights or local liberties were concerned, was very limited. The cement 
that held them together was the Church. 

This Church of the sixteenth century was a very different thing 
from a modern Church that stands aside from and often in opposition 
to the State. On the contrary it then embraced everything. Through 
it the King became a semi-sacred figure a Pharaoh, as a Portuguese 
historian has put it: his wars, in Flanders and in Germany, became 
sacred wars and the discoveries and conquests in the New World 
missions of evangelization. Spain lived then for an idea and every 
thing was sacrificed to maintaining that idea in its purity. The In 
quisition, which was the organization set up for this purpose, was 
naturally given a supreme position in the State. The analogy of Spain 
then with the totalitarian states of to-day is obvious. The militant 
attitude that forced it to undertake costly wars for ideological reasons, 
the severe censorship, the burnings of books, the secret Cheka, the 
system of purifications, the ban on persons who had heretic or Jewish 
blood, the ban on foreign study and travel, the discouragement of 
foreign trade and the gradually increasing isolation all these modern 
symptoms were first to be seen in sixteenth-century Spain. Only the 
economic and political centralization was lacking. 

But if the Church so affected and penetrated the State, the latter 
also reacted upon the Church. It was essentially a national Church. A 
Spanish army captured and sacked Rome and humiliated the Pope. 
Both Inquisition and King were often at sharp variance with the 
Vatican. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was still 
refused credence in most Catholic countries, was in Spain an article of 
faith. No serious attempt was made to convert the Moors, and the 
children of converts down to the third generation were not considered 
full Christians and were refused admittance to holy orders. Had the 
Protestant schism not come when it did, the Spanish Church might 
have been the one to secede from Rome. 1 Yet in that case everything 

1 The reform of the regular clergy carried out before 1510 by Cardinal Xim&nez, 
the desire of the Spanish clergy to be allowed to marry, the dislike of the Italians and 



40 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

would have been different, for the Spanish totalitarianism of 1580 was 
essentially a reaction formation, like German National Socialism to 
day, which could scarcely have come into existence but for the 
Protestant revolt. 

Within Spain itself, religion was not only the link between the 
different provinces and the music that made them all move together, 
but it was the great leveller. Never has Marx's statement that religion 
was the opiate of the poor been more untrue. In all the social con 
flicts of the time the Germanfa of 1520 at Valencia, the rising of the 
Basques in 1631 against the salt tax and the exactions of the rich it 
was the monks who led and supported the people. As in Germany 
to-day the mere strength of the national religion caused a country 
where hitherto the divisions between nobles and plebeians had been 
very great, to become by 1620 remarkably egalitarian. Under weak 
but increasingly beloved and increasingly sacred kings there lived an 
anarchic mass of people, who, provided they did not mind tightening 
their belts, could do very much as they pleased. Class distinctions 
ceased to have the same importance. French and Italians were horri 
fied at the insolence with which the lowest tradesman, got up with 
cloak and sword even if there was nothing at home to eat, jostled the 
highest grandees in the land. The nobles, of course, had their troops 
of servants, but these servants or retainers prided themselves on doing 
no work and on treating their masters with familiarity. The poor, 
begging in the streets or fed at the innumerable convent kitchens, 
were just as haughty. Hungry, ragged, idle, amazingly ignorant, but 
also amazingly free that is the verdict of travellers towards 1660. 
'The country of Europe', wrote a French Protestant, Antoine de 
Brunei, 'where there is greatest social equality/ 1 And for this the 
Church, with its unifying religious idea, must be given a large part of 
the credit. The magnificent independence of the Spaniards, which 
strikes every traveller to-day, is no doubt a legacy of the early Middle 
Ages; but the fact that it was not destroyed by the rise of absolutism 
must be put down mainly to the influence of the monks, who for three 
centuries made themselves the defenders of personal and local liberty 

the disapprobation of the corruption and luxury of the Papacy, the very strong 
following that Erasmus had in Spain down to the 1530*3 all point to the beginning of 
a Reformation movement in Spain before Luther. The antagonism to the Popes in 
particular. After the sack of Rome in 1527 there was a strong movement in Spain 
to deprive the Pope of his temporal power. 

1 Voyage en Espagne, 1665, usually attributed to a Dutchman, Frangois van 
Aerssen, but actually written by his tutor, a French Protestant, Antoine de Brunei, 
who accompanied him. It is one of the bes.t books on Spain of this century. 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 41 

against both the encroachments of the State and the arrogance of the 
upper classes. 1 Southey, visiting Spain in 1795, full of the ideas of the 
French Revolution and of the Rights of Man, was, I believe, the first 
person to make the obvious (though not necessarily correct) deduction 
that, since the Spanish poor had attained a spirit of liberty and in 
dependence quite unknown among the same class in England, they 
were more fitted than other races for free institutions. 2 

To go back, however, to 1700, Spain was then bankrupt: her sacred 
king, mad and childless: her population shrunk: her land unculti 
vated: her trade non-existent. The old religious idea had run its 
course. The new idea brought in by the Bourbon kings was that of 
political unity and centralization and, as the century wore on, of 
economic revival. The Church had lost its political function. And 
gradually, painfully, Spain began to live again, but with a very dif 
ferent kind of life. 3 

1 This statement must be qualified. Spanish independence of character, Spanish 
civil liberties go back to the early Middle Ages and were the result of social con 
ditions brought about by the continual war against the Moors and by the necessity 
for repopulating huge stretches of waste country. They declined in the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries with the decay of the municipalities, but revived under 
Ferdinand and Isabella, who to counterbalance the power of the nobility encouraged 
the growth of a class of small hidalgos by means of laws permitting the entailing of 
even very small estates. That they did not come to an end altogether under two 
centuries of absolutist rule, but on the contrary revived in a strong upheaval of 
popular feeling accompanied by a rejuvenescence of popular culture, must, I think, 
be put down in the main to the moral support given to the people by the Church. 

2 See Southey's Letters from Spain, 1797: 'I like the familiarity of these people. 
They address me with cheerfulness and without any of that awkward silent sub 
mission which ought never to be paid by one human being to another. How often in 
England have I heard a tavern waiter cursed by some fellow who would never have 
dared to insult him if his situation had permitted him to resent the insult. I have 
observed nothing of this in Spain. The people show civility and expect to receive it.* 

But Southey was naturally unable to distinguish between the ideological tyranny 
of the Church and its liberating and levelling power in other respects and he goes on 
to state that 'with Padilla expired the liberties of Spain', and to express the hope 
that * in a more enlightened age some new Padilla may arise with better fortune and 
with more enlarged views ; then, and not till then, will Spain assume her ancient 
rank in Europe'. Some verses on Padilla, 'the Martyr to Freedom', follow. 

3 The moral and intellectual decline of the Church was already far advanced by 
1700, though for a little longer exceptional men continued to appear in it. Yet the 
year 1700 is the year of the Church's greatest numerical extension in Spain: one man 
in every nine belonged to it. It is from this time on that the Spanish monk and 
priest ceases to be a support of humanistic learning and becomes, as a Portuguese 
historian has put it, an African medicine-man, whose powers depend on his ability to 
work up the passions of the uneducated classes. When one considers the greatness of 
the Spanish Church from 1500 to 1630 a greatness still altogether unappreciated in 
England, and which has perhaps no equal in ecclesiastical history in any other 
country or century the rapidity of the decline amazes one. Undoubtedly a large 
part of the blame for this must be laid to the stultifying action of the Inquisition. 



42 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

The Church however did not submit easily. The Jesuits resisted and 
were turned out in 1767. The Inquisition, which had to be handled 
with circumspection, resisted too. It still had sufficient power to ruin 
Olavide, the enlightened Commissioner of Charles III, who was 
attempting to repopulate the empty fields, for the Church was the 
largest landowner in Spain and felt itself threatened by his agrarian 
policy. And in this it had the great mass of the country behind it. 
The small group of enlightened men under the direction of the King 
who were endeavouring to impose a new economic structure and 
a new outlook on the people found that this people liberty-loving 
and anarchic had no wish to change and that they were led by the 
Church, and especially by the monks, in their resistance. This resist 
ance of the Church to the State, 1 which begins to appear towards 
1760, has been continued without a break down to the present time. 
And that has had several effects : first, that the natural development 
of the country has been checked and stunted: then, that the Church 
has come to regard its normal attitude to the civil powers as one of 
opposition: and, finally, that the State has been forced to consider as 
one of its principal functions the struggle with the Church. 

When, therefore, in May 1808, the Spanish people rose against 
Napoleon, there was no king and no government to direct them. The 
richer classes and the nobles hedged or went over to the French. It 
was the people under the leadership of the Church who took up arms. 
Priests and monks, blacksmiths and chair-menders led the partidas or 
guerrilla bands and sat on the provincial juntas. It was even a rule in 
many of the partidas that no gentleman (hidalgo) should belong to 
them, because in the fight against the invaders men with property to 
lose could not be trusted. This was the last occasion on which the 
Church played a national role in Spain. Yet curiously enough the 
Cortes, which met in 1810 at Cadiz to carry on the war against the 
French and to draw up a Constitution, proved to be simply a con 
tinuation (in a somewhat modernized form, now that the King was a 
prisoner in France) of the old bureaucratic and anti-clerical councils 
of Charles III. The Liberals brought nothing new to Spain except the 

1 One can see the beginnings of this resistance a century earlier, when the monks 
supported the risings in Catalonia and elsewhere against Olivares* plans for a more 
centralized State. That fear and mistrust of the State which has always been so 
strong in Spain and of which the Anarchists are the chief exponents to-day was 
shared by the Church whenever it appeared that the State was endeavouring to 
increase its powers. Until it lost its hold over the people the Spanish Church in 
variably stood for a weak central authority. 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 43 

idea, natural under the circumstances, that sovereignty emanated 
from the people and with it a kind of excitement about liberty but 
they passed after weeks of furious discussion a law which the Bourbon 
kings had longed to pass but had not dared the abolition of the 
Inquisition. All the other articles of this Constitution, however drastic 
or innovating, were put through almost without discussion. This was 
passed by only a small minority and, as Wellington at the time 
prophesied, it at once sealed the fate of the Cortes, of the Constitution 
and of the Liberals, as they were now called, who had passed it. 

Religion from this time on lent its venom to the terribly savage re 
pressions and civil wars of the next thirty years. All the fury which 
Napoleon had aroused was transferred to the Liberals, and the 
cowardly court circles which at first had flocked to Joseph joined fully 
in it. These Liberals, encouraged and maddened by persecutions, and 
hiding in the lodges of the freemasons where they could plot more 
easily, gradually emerged as the party of the new and weak middle 
classes and found in the Army, whose officers were mostly drawn from 
their ranks, a champion to defend them. 

The Carlists, who were the party created by the Church to defend 
their interests and the ideas of the seventeenth century, were in the 
end defeated. Indeed they could never have resisted so long as they 
did, if these interests had not coincided with those of the Basque and 
Catalan Nationalists, whose fueros, or local privileges, the Bourbon 
kings had reduced or taken away, but which the Church, true to its 
pre-Bourbon attitude, had always supported. 

In the middle of the Carlist War a significant thing occurred, which 
if the Church had not long ceased to be able to take in new impres 
sions, might have opened its eyes to the gravity of its situation. There 
was a cholera plague in Madrid and a rumour spread that the monks 
and the Jesuits had poisoned the springs. A mob collected and burned 
convents and Jesuit churches and killed any monks it could find. 
Next year (1835), as if on a sudden signal, churches and convents 
were burned in all the large towns of Spain. And here one must 
note two things first, that the men who burned them were most 
of them practising Catholics and secondly, that the convents were 
burned not by the Liberal middle classes, but by the people. Anger 
against the Carlists had made the monks, who supported them, un 
popular. 

A few months later Mendizabal passed a law breaking up the con 
vents and confiscating most of the landed property of the Church. 



44 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

This law was not merely an anti-clerical or rather an anti-Carlist law: 
it was also part of the general policy of the Liberals of breaking up the 
entailed estates that then, together with the common lands, covered 
almost the whole of the country. Mendizabal, who from a long 
residence in England (he had gone successfully into business there) 
had come to understand the economic basis of Liberalism, hoped in 
this way to destroy the old Spanish inertia and to force his country 
men to create wealth by exchange, commerce and speculation. It was 
this measure, which, by making the landowners and provincial bour 
geoisie who bought up at a temptingly low price the estates of the 
Church his accomplices, decided the war and secured the Liberal 
Revolution, just as in England the sale of the monastic lands had 
decided the Reformation. 

It had another effect. By cutting off the clergy and the monks from 
the possession of land, it alienated them from the people, forced them 
to think of other methods of enrichment and so threw them into the 
arms of the wealthy classes, on whom alone through the greater part 
of Spain they have depended ever since. Thus the struggle which 
from 1814 to 1840 had made the Church savage and bloodthirsty now 
made it grasping. Intellectually it had been degenerating since 1700 
like indeed every other institution in Spain and morally it was 
degenerating still more rapidly as a result of the violently aggressive 
attitude it had taken up. I need only cite in support of this the 
Society of the Exterminating Angel, founded in 1821 and revived in 
1834 under the presidency of the Bishop of Osma to exterminate all 
Liberals : the hanging of a deist schoolmaster in 1827 by the Archbishop 
of Valencia after his trial for heresy, 1 or the miserable imposture of 
the Bleeding Nun and Father Claret at the court of Isabella 2 

1 Cayetano Ripoll, the schoolmaster in question, one of the first of the great army 
of anti-clerical and revolutionary dominies, was tried and convicted without being 
heard in his own defence or being allowed to give evidence. He was condemned to 
be burned alive, but at the last moment the mode of execution was changed to 
hanging, though buckets painted with flames were placed at the foot of the scaffold 
to symbolize the original sentence. After death his body was pulled to pieces by the 
mob and burned. 

2 One has only to compare the quality of the advice on political matters given by 
the Bleeding Nun, Sor Patrocinio and her shady confederate, the Queen's confessor 
Father Claret, to Queen Isabella with the letters of Sor Maria de Agreda to Philip IV, 
to appreciate the enormous intellectual and moral degeneration of the Church in the 
course of two centuries. Or one may contrast Claudio Moyano's dictum (1853) that 
* the poor should be respectful and humble with the rich and the rich charitable and 
generous with the poor 5 with Father Vitoria's declaration (c. 1534) that the 'com 
munication' by the rich of their goods was the indispensable preliminary condition 
to their protection by the State. 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 45 

all of them things which could never have occurred at this time 
in any other Catholic country. Thus one has the spectacle of the 
most naturally religious people in Europe the Spanish pueblo 
although isolated from the dangerous influences of the century be 
cause they cannot read gradually and reluctantly separating them 
selves from the Church when it is forced upon them that it is a purely 
self-seeking institution with no real care for their interests. By 1870^ 
although the great mass of the people was still Catholic, the priests 
in most of the large towns had lost their hold upon them and monks 
were hated. These were the symptoms which in Germany preceded 
the Reformation. 

And yet) one cannot help thinking, it might have been different. In 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Spanish Church had been, 
as I have said, a levelling institution. Its close connection with the 
State had given it an interest in social and political questions such as 
the Church in other Christian countries had never possessed. The 
amazing success of the colonization of America and the humane 
methods by which, after the first violent conquest, the conflicts be 
tween the Indians and the planters were resolved, were largely due to 
its influence. Its missionaries returned to Spain with a practical ex 
perience of social problems and the strong idealism of the monastic 
orders led to their weight being usually thrown on the side of the 
under dog (in America the Indians, in Spain the workers) against the 
powerful and the rich. There is nothing surprising therefore to find 
the Spanish Church going farther than any of the Protestant Churches 
of the time in providing a platform on which social theories of a com 
munistic sort could be freely discussed. Father Mariana, for example, 
the greatest of Spanish historians, whose books are the bible of the 
Right wing to-day, proclaimed the illegality (ilicitud) of private pro 
perty in land and demanded the intervention of the State in the 
distribution of natural riches. Other Churchmen of the time held 
similar views. The folly and injustice of the unequal distribution of 
land were proclaimed by a host of monks, theologians and lawyers in 
much stronger terms than the mediaeval schoolmen had ever per 
mitted themselves to use. In America the Inca collectivist state drew 
deep admiration both from the missionaries and from the civil ser 
vants engaged in reorganizing the country. The Jesuits seem to have 
been particularly impressed by it it was, for example, a Jesuit, Father 
Acosta, who in his history of the Indies, published in Seville in 1590, 
first seriously recommended the application of Inca state socialism to 



46 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

Spain a train of thought which led a few years later to the establish 
ment of the famous Jesuit concessions in Paraguay, which provide the 
earliest example of a communist state set up by Europeans. 1 

The seventeenth century saw a great development and clarification 
of socialist or collectivist ideas both among the clergy, who recom 
mended them on moral and religious grounds, and of officials and civil 
servants, who saw in them a remedy for the catastrophic economic 
conditions of the country. The State in the end took up these ideas 
and, though the extensive socialist measures which it passed (begin 
ning with the Pragmatic of 1633, fixing the conditions for the leasing 
of pasture land so rigidly as in effect to nationalize the greater part of 
the surface of Spain) were never carried out, that was not the fault of 
the people who directed public opinion in the country. 

But what I wish to stress now is the immense part which the Church 
had played in furthering these ideas and in insisting that it was the 
moral duty of the King and Government to secure, compulsorily and 
if necessary without compensation, a more equal distribution of pro 
perty. It was only the too rapid collapse of the whole economic and 
moral fabric of the country, the weakness of the Government and 
its inability to get any of its economic decrees carried out against the 
silent opposition of the landlords, that prevented Spain in this century 
from advancing a considerable way along the road to a socialistic 
organization. 

But the collectivist tendencies of Spanish economists disappeared 
just when the moment for deciding the agrarian question at last 
arrived. The theories of Adam Smith made their appearance in Spain 
in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and through the influence 
of Jovellanos, the most famous economist of the time, they won a 
complete victory. In the Cadiz Cortes of 1810-1814, when the 
question was again taken up, his views prevailed and it was decided 
that all the land that would become available through the sale of 
common lands and, later, of Church property should be thrown on to 
the open market. This policy, which continued to be carried out all 
through the following century, was very unpopular with the peasants 
and poor labourers, who saw the large estates increasing everywhere 
at their expense. Had therefore the Church put forward a land policy 
of its own in keeping with its traditional views and with the old 
communal practice of the villages, using the immense experience it 
had acquired in its American concessions to devise some scheme for 

1 For further information on this see Appendix II. 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 47 

the interior colonization of Spain, it might well have checked the 
spreading of the Liberal ideas, which in many respects were unsuited 
to Spanish conditions. But the Church was no longer able to invent 
anything : its land policy was a mere obstinate clinging to the past and 
provided no guidance for the change from semi-pastoral life to agri 
culture which was everywhere taking place with a great increase of 
population. Hence Carlism failed except in Navarre and along the 
southern slope of the Pyrenees, where the combination of middle- 
sized farms and of large communal pastures suited it. The Church in 
Spain was ruined by its inability to react intelligently to the ideas of 
the French Revolution, while the low standard of education in the 
seminaries (the universities were secularized in 1837 and theology 
ceased to be taught there) prevented its ever recovering. 

From 1874, then, to 1931 the Church, though losing every year its 
influence with the poor, was gaining steadily in riches and in political 
power. The death of Alfonso XII led to a great strengthening of its 
position. In return for Leo XIIFs special protection (which kept off 
the danger of a Carlist rising during the King's minority) the Queen 
Regent dealt out money and patronage with a lavish hand. Indeed as 
she was herself entirely under the influence of her confessor she 
scarcely needed this encouragement. At the same time the French 
regular clergy, who had been compelled to leave their homes by the 
Jules Ferry laws secularizing education, established themselves in 
Spain and a concerted effort began to save at least one country in 
Europe from 'liberal atheism'. Within a few years the Peninsula was 
studded with almost as many convents, colleges and religious founda 
tions as it had seen during its palmiest period and the court, the 
universities, the press and indeed a large part of the governing classes 
went down before a wave of clericalism. 

The leaders of this movement were, of course, the Jesuits, Theirs 
was the policy originated three centuries before by their founder 
of winning over the rich and the powerful. For this they needed 
money. And indeed Spain provided a tempting investment for the 
general funds of their Society : money laid out there would bring not 
only a good return but also immediate political power. And so their 
wealth in the Peninsula began to mount up composed as it was of 
the investments of the Society abroad and of the new bequests made 
by the pious in Spain until it reached really immense proportions. 
In 1912, according to Joaquin Aguilera, Secretary of the Fomento, 
they controlled 'without exaggeration one-third of the capital wealth 



48 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

of Spain*. 1 They owned railways, mines, factories, banks, shipping 
companies, orange plantations. There came to be something almost 
mythical about their industrial activities. One was told that they ran 
the antique furniture business, supplied Madrid with fresh fish and 
controlled the liveliest of the cabarets. Their working capital was said 
to amount to ^60,000,000 sterling. There is of course no reason why 
the Jesuits, with their colleges and missions to provide for, should not 
be wealthy. They would not be able to carry out their work if they 
were not. And there is a Spanish saying: El dinero es muy catolico: 
'Money is a good Catholic. 3 But it seemed scarcely in the national 
interests that one section of the community and that a militant one 
should control so large a share of the industrial life of the country, and 
then one must remember that a good part of this wealth had to be 
acquired by cadging for gifts and bequests among the rich and that 
these favours were not given for nothing. In return the Church was 
expected to defend the interests of the rich against the poor. How 
close, how intimate, how unbecoming this connection between some 
of the religious orders and the very rich could be is scarcely to be 
credited by those who have not lived for some years in Spain. For 
more than a century now all contact with the rich, with the court, and 
with politics in Spain has been corrupting. 2 

On the other hand the country clergy were poor. Their salaries, 
fixed by the Concordat of 1851, were paid by the State and the cost of 
living had been rising. Some of them scarcely received more than a 
manual labourer. But poverty is never humiliating in Spain. On the 
contrary, it is apt to bring out the best in the Spanish character, so 
that though badly educated and somewhat lax by modern standards 
(there were many who still adhered to the mediaeval custom of 

1 See article in La Revue by J. Aguilera, 1912, cited by A. Marvaud, UEspagne 
auXXieme Siecle, p. 189. The statement so often made in propagandist books, that 
the Spanish Church is a large landowner, is not of course true. 

z 'In the early nineteenth century', wrote the Conde de Romanones, *the in 
fluence of the monks in society was undoubtedly less than it is to-day ; though they 
visited every house daily, their action was individual and not as now the result of a 
tdctica admirable de conjunto y estudiada en todos sus detalles' (Notas de Una Vida, 
P- 303). 

In another passage he says more upon these tactics : * The existing rivalry between 
one order and another has been attenuated : there has been established among them 
what in the financial world is called a trust. . . . Each is given its region, its locality 
and its social class. Some work the aristocracy, others the middle classes and others 
the poor.' 

This is the comment of Cdnovas: 'I will not deny that the manner of under 
standing and practising the Catholic religion to-day may not be more correct in its 
form. . . but it has very little that is Spanish about it ' (El Solitario y su Tiempo). 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 49 

"barragania and kept a 'housekeeper') 1 they were usually plain, honest 
men, who in an age when faith was dead did their best to carry out 
their duties. 

There were then the monastic orders. By the provisions of the 
Concordat only three orders were allowed in Spain two of which 
were specified and one which was left to the Pope to choose. He 
never chose and so every order that wished to established itself. On 
various occasions the Liberals attempted to regulate this position to 
compel them at least to register and so submit to inspection, but each 
time such furious protests were raised, there were so many threats 
from Rome and from the Archbishops, that the attempt had to be 
dropped. Actually the number of monks was never very great some 
10,000 when the Republic came in, most of them schoolmasters 
but the number of nuns rose to be 40,000, more than had ever been 
known in Spain before and at least twice as many as in the time 
of St Theresa. 2 

But the main struggle with the Liberals was over education.. Until 
1836 education had been almost entirely in the hands of the higher 
clergy and the religious orders. The Church at this time had not yet 
recovered from the shock which the French Revolution had given it 
and had a mortal dread of learning. Science, mathematics, agriculture 
and political economy were therefore not taught, as they were con 
sidered dangerous subjects for any but trained theologians. The 
Jesuits frowned on history, which offered so many bad examples to 
the young and innocent. Almost the only subject that could usefully 
be studied at the universities was law. For though medicine was 
taught, it suffered from the suppression of that erroneous Lutheran 
notion upon the circulation of the blood, whilst if one touched on 
physics one had to remember that the Copernican system was still a 
cosa de Inquisition. In the elementary schools the children of the poor 
were deliberately not taught to read, but only to sew and to recite the 

1 In the Middle Ages it was an established custom, permitted by the bishops, for 
Spanish priests to have concubines. They wore a special dress and had special rights 
and were called barraganas. When the Council of Trent forbade this practice to 
continue, the Spanish clergy protested. And in fact they have never paid much 
attention to the prohibition, for they continue to have * housekeepers ' and * nieces * 
to this day. Their parishioners, far from being shocked, prefer them to live in con 
cubinage, as otherwise they would not always care to let their womenfolk confess to 
them. This was so in the fifteenth century, when the Basques regularly refused to 
receive priests who did not bring their barraganas with them (Alvarez de Colmenar, 
Delices de VEspagne et du Portugal, 1707), and to my knowledge it was often true 
until a few years ago. 

2 See Luis Morote, Los Frailes en Espana, 1904. 



5O THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

Catechism. 1 As the University of Cervera the only university in 
Catalonia declared in its famous address to Ferdinand VII : ' Far be 
from us the dangerous novelty of thinking.' 

The Liberal Revolution changed this. Successive Governments 
gradually freed the universities from clerical control and laid the 
foundations of universal elementary education. The religious orders 
then turned their attention to secondary schools. The Church set 
itself the task of educating all the sons of the upper and upper-middle 
classes. The colleges of the Jesuits and Augustinians became what 
the public schools are in England. One cannot altogether say that 
it was a good education that they gave. * The Jesuits do not educate, 
they domesticate', wrote the Conde de la Mortera, 2 whilst those who 
did not take the imprint preserved bitter memories of the corporal 
punishments and of the system of sneaking and espionage which 
prevailed in their colleges. Some of the most intransigent of the 
anti-clericals owed their hatred of the Church to these early impres 
sions. Nor was the purely scholastic side of the education they gave 
what might have been expected. The humanities (Latin, history and 
literature) were all badly taught and so was religion, but there was 
a high standard on technological subjects. The Jesuits, for example, 
had two universities that gave degrees in law and commerce and 
a large and efficient institute for engineers and electricians. The 
most important technical electrical magazine in the country was run 
by them. On this territory the Government did not compete. The 
Institution Libre de Ensenanza, one of the best and most famous 
educational establishments in Europe, which has done more to raise 
the level of Spanish culture than any other single institution, was 
founded in 1876 by private enterprise. 

But it was over primary education that the main battle took place. 
The field was a wide one, for in 1870 something like 60 per cent of the 
population was illiterate. Though the majority of existing schools 
belonged to the civil authorities (the policy of the religious orders in 
the early nineteenth century had been to prevent the poor from 
learning to read) both sides claimed a monopoly. The tactics of the 
Church were to force the State schools to close down from lack of 
funds. As the upkeep of the schools was then a charge on the munici- 

1 See Note A on p. 55 at end of chapter. 

2 Recuerdos de mi Vida, by Gabriel Maura Gamazo, Conde de la Mortera, p. 13. 
Maura Gamazo is the eldest son of Antonio Maura, and a strong Catholic and Con 
servative. 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 51 

polities, by its influence on the caciques and local administrations the 
Church was able to prevent any payments from being made. It was 
then that the saying c to be as hungry as a schoolmaster' first came into 
existence. In a country where more than two-thirds of the population 
are permanently under-nourished, it conveys a good deal. This state 
of affairs was only remedied in 1901 when Romanones made education 
a charge on the State, but the amount devoted to it on the budget was 
still scandalously small. 1 

To appreciate the full intransigeance of the attitude of the Church 
one must remember that at all events down to 1910 the immense 
majority of schoolmasters were sincere Catholics and went to mass 
regularly: that the Catholic religion and catechism were compulsorily 
taught in all the schools and that the parish priest had a right to super 
vise this. So far did this sometimes go that parents used to complain 
that in State schools the children passed ialf their class hours in 
saying the rosary and in absorbing sacred history and never learned to 
read. The difference between a convent school and a State school was 
not one of religion but of politics. To put it bluntly, the children in 
convent schools were taught that if they associated with Liberals, they 
went to hell. This attitude is expressed very clearly in the complete 
Church catechism, republished in 1927 . 2 

'What does Liberalism teach?* it begins. 'That the State is in 
dependent of the Church.' And it goes on to point out that the State 
must be subject to the Church as the body to the soul, as the temporal 
to the eternal. It then enumerates, among the false liberties of 
Liberalism, liberty of conscience, of education, of propaganda and of 
meeting all of which it is heretical to believe in. It continues : 

'What kind of sin is Liberalism?' 'It is a most grievous sin 
against faith/ 

1 In 1900 the amount budgetted for education was 17 millions of pesetas: this 
naturally included the State subvention to monastic schools. In 1930 it was 166 
millions and still utterly insufficient: in Madrid alone more than 80,000 children did 
not attend school. 

z Nuevo Ripalda enriquecido con Varios Apendices, i4th ed. 1927. There is a long 
quotation in Professor Trend's Modern Spain, p. 61. 

Other catechisms taught precisely similar doctrines. See, for example, Una 
Explicaddn Breve y Sencilla del Catequismo Cat6lico, by R. P. Angel Maria de Arcos, 
S.J. a book with a circulation of several hundreds of thousands of copies. 

Fear of Protestantism also remained to an extraordinary degree. H. B. Clarke, the 
author of a well-known history of modern Spain, declared that in his time (i.e. in the 
nineties) Spaniards who ate with Protestants were excommunicated. The Spanish 
Church deliberately refused to adapt itself to the modern world, preferring to exist 
as a sect, cut off from all contact with reality, to modifying in any way its peculiar 
interpretation of the text: 'Those that are not with me are against me.' 



52 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

4 Why ?* 'Because it consists in a collection of heresies condemned 
by the Church.' 

* Is it a sin for a Catholic to read a Liberal newspaper ? ' He may 
read the Stock Exchange News. 

' What sin is committed by him who votes for a Liberal candidate ? ' 
' Generally a mortal sin. 5 

When one remembers how timid, respectable and conservative was 
the Liberal party of those days, how the very most they demanded 
were those liberties current in all other civilized countries of the 
world, one sees how difficult it was not to be thrown into an attitude of 
violent resistance to a party which in the last three centuries had for 
gotten everything and learned nothing. The Church presented in 
Spain an insoluble problem, and when in the end the majority of the 
population abandoned it in despair at its political intransigeance and 
burned churches and killed priests in revolutionary I might almost 
say in true Catholic and filial anger there is surely nothing to be 
surprised at. 

It may be argued, of course, that only by an attitude of rigid in 
transigeance can a religious body survive in the destructive air of the 
modern world. The attractive power of a Church lies to a large extent 
in its air of certainty, which translated into action means intolerance. 
But the errors of the Spanish Church have not proceeded from the 
depth of its conviction, but on the contrary from its lack of religious 
feeling combined with pride. Just as in the sixteenth century it 
showed neither the will nor the patience necessary for converting the 
Moors, but used its influence with the State to have them driven out 
altogether, so to-day it has refused (until too late) to take the appro 
priate measures for arresting the steady de-Christianization of the 
working classes. Disdaining the slow work of example and persuasion, 
it has preferred to fall back upon the authority of the State. Thus 
instead of meeting the Socialists and the Anarchists on their own 
ground, with labour organizations, friendly societies and projects for 
social reform, it has concentrated its efforts upon the search for a 
government that would suppress its enemies by force and restore to 
the Catholic religion the privileged position it held two centuries ago. 
This has meant that its action has been mainly political and, since its 
allies have naturally been taken from the wealthiest and most reac 
tionary classes, that it has drawn upon itself in the course of the 
struggle the hostility of every decent or progressive force in the 
country. This hostility has done it untold harm. The educated classes 
have been driven to regard the Church as the enemy not only of 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 53 

parliamentary government but of modem European culture: the 
working classes have seen in it a barrier to their hopes of a better 
standard of living. Behind every act of public violence, every curtail 
ment of liberty, every judicial murder, there stood the bishop, who 
either in his pastoral or in a leading article of the Catholic press 
showed his approval and called for more. When one remembers that 
this political intransigeance often covered the greatest laxity of con 
duct and a more or less total absence of the Christian virtues, one 
cannot be surprised that the Church became to large sections of 
Spaniards the symbol of everything that was vile, stupid and hypocri 
tical. The devotion of individual priests and monks, the sincerity and 
humanity which large numbers of Spanish Catholics have always 
shown, were obscured by the militant and reactionary attitude of the 
hierarchy. 

Under these circumstances it is perhaps natural that, over more than 
two-thirds of its surface, Spain was ceasing to be a Catholic country. 
Already in 1910 civil marriages and funerals, almost unheard of in the 
previous century, were becoming common. The majority still made 
use of religious ceremonies at births, deaths and marriages and flocked 
to the great festivals, but they expressed open incredulity on Church 
dogmas, never attended mass and never confessed. Among the middle 
classes (that is to say among the men, for the women less readily lost 
their faith) scepticism was becoming common, and a certain contempt 
for the Church and clergy and for all that pertained to them had 
become the fashion even among those who passed as believers. By 
193 1 this process had reached surprising lengths. According to Father 
Francisco Peiro only 5 per cent of the villagers of New Castile and 
Central Spain attended mass or carried out their Easter obligations: 
in Andalusia the attendance of men was i per cent: in many villages 
the priest said mass alone. The position in Madrid was no better. In 
the parish of San Ramon in the quarter of Vallecas, out of a population 
of 80,000 parishioners, only 3 J per cent (excluding the children in the 
convent schools) attended mass: 25 per cent of the children born were 
not baptized. Of those educated in convent schools, 90 per cent did 
not confess or hear mass after leaving school. Yet this parish was one 
of the richest in Spain and spent large sums on charity and education. 
The situation in other parishes was worse: in that of San Millan, for 
example, though the church-goers were mostly drawn from the old, 
more than 40 per cent died without sacraments. 1 And Barcelona and 
Valencia had the reputation of being more irreligious than Madrid. 
1 El Problema Religiose- Social de Espana, by P. Francisco Peir<5, 1936. 



54 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

A large part of this decay of religious belief was due of course 
simply to the spirit of the age : much the same thing was taking place 
in other countries. There were, however, two points that distinguished 
the situation in Spain from that elsewhere: first the village priests had 
failed (except in the north) to hold their parishioners, who had lost 
their faith even before Socialist or Anarchist propaganda began to 
reach them : then the attitude of the working classes and of the petite 
bourgeoisie in the towns towards the priests and monks was not one of 
indifference but of hatred. The reason for this was, as I have said, the 
militant attitude of the hierarchy in political questions ; that is to say, 
it was a reflection of the attitude of the Church towards them and 
their claims. But the degree of hatred shown was often startling. If 
the Spanish Church is to be described as fanatical, the same word 
must equally be applied to many of the anti-clericals. And since 
fanaticism leads to credulity, on each side there grew up a firm belief 
in the power and wickedness of the occult forces of their adversaries : 
in the one case of the freemasons and supposed Russian agents and on 
the other of the monks and Jesuits. Of all the many antagonisms that 
during the last forty years have flourished in Spain, none was more 
bitter or envenomed than that between the Catholic Church and its 
opponents. The Civil War has shown to what tragic consequences it 
could lead. 

I have said that the Church made no serious effort to keep the 
loyalty of the working classes by means of Catholic associations and 
friendly societies. This statement requires some modification. It 
began to take a few tentative steps in this direction in the eighties and 
nineties as part of the new labour policy inaugurated by Leo XIII. 
The Catholic associations founded then had certain initial advantages 
over Socialist and Anarchist trade unions: they had considerable 
sums of money at their disposal and by their influence over employers 
and landowners they could obtain a privileged position for their 
members. But the landlords and employers showed their usual inertia 
and indifference and, except at periodic moments of alarm following 
strikes or labour disturbances, they did not back the Catholic asso 
ciations effectively. Moreover, the organizers of these associations 
often found themselves placed in a difficult position. They could not 
get sufficient members unless they could make it clear that at moments 
of crisis they really stood for the interests of the workmen against the 
employers. But this they obviously did not and could not do. The 
employers, who provided most of the money and guaranteed jobs to 



THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 55 

the unemployed, expected in return to use the Catholic unions to 
breakstrikes. This the workmen disliked doing. And so, at the end of 
years of spasmodic work and effort, the Catholic associations were 
forced to admit their complete failure except in certain districts in the 
north of Spain Navarre, Old Castile, the Basque provinces where 
the gulf between rich and poor was not so unbridgeable. Elsewhere it 
either happened that the Anarchists or the Socialists ousted them, or 
that the peasants continued without organizations of any kind. In 
other words the Church was so deeply compromised with the em 
ployer classes that workmen and peasants could not be lured into their 
associations. 1 However, one must admit that, even if this had not 
been the case, the role of the Catholic leaders would not have been an 
easy one: given the economic situation, the wide gulf between rich 
and poor and the Spanish temperament, strong class antagonism was 
inevitable in a large part of the country. Taking sides had become 
necessary. And had the Church been drawn into serious support of 
the working classes, they would undoubtedly have seen the greater 
part of their present allies, the gente de orden, leave them. 

So that one may say that the year 1912 marks the end of the long 
struggle between the Church and the Liberal parties. The Church 
was drawing closer to the Army and to the Crown and was seeking in 
them a means to its complete triumph. It had made its choice be 
tween the poor and the rich and there was no turning back. It did not 
of course wish to. The rich would provide it with the money needed 
for winning over the poor and in return it would guarantee * social 
respect and order'. That was the policy. Unfortunately the bargain 
did not correspond to the real circumstances or to the state of opinion 
in the country and there was no possibility of its being carried out. 

1 The Catholic labour organizations have been more fully described on pp. 227- 
228. 

FURTHER NOTE ON CHAPTER III 

A (p. 50). The low level of education in Spain goes back to the beginning of the 
eighteenth century and the Church, which controlled the curriculum in the univer 
sities and provided most of the teachers, has a special responsibility for it. Readers 
of Saint- Simon will remember the story of Cardinal Borja, who when someone spoke 
to him in Latin, replied that he did not understand French. 

In 1773 the University of Salamanca still ignored Descartes, Gassendi and 
Newton, and its theological classes debated such subjects as what language the 
angels spoke and whether the sky was made of bell metal or of wine-like liquid. 
(Ballesteros, Tomo vi, p. 288.) 

A generation earlier it had refused to establish a professorship of mathematics at 
the request of Philip V, and one of its professors, the Jesuit Father Rivera, had 



56 THE LIBERALS AND THE CHURCH 

declared that Science was quite useless and that its books should be regarded as 
smelling of the devil.) (Altamira Tomo iv, p. 257.) One of the charges on which 
Olavide, the famous Commissioner of Charles III, was condemned and forced to 
do penance by the Inquisition was that he believed in the Copernican system. 

But towards the end of the eighteenth century a great revival took place. In 1770 
the King founded the Estudios Reales de San Isidro at Madrid as a secondary school, 
and the Colegio Imperial to provide higher education for a select number of pupils, 
and before the end of the century the Council of Castile was discussing schemes for 
compulsory State education. A plan for setting up Pestalozzi schools all over Spain 
was adopted in 1806. But these reforms were brought in by the small set of en 
lightened men who then governed the country against the wishes of the Church and 
of the people, and the wars that followed destroyed the promising beginning that had 
been made. In 1840 Spanish education was much what it had been in 1740. See 
J. Tanski, L'Espagne en 1843 et 1844 and G. Hubbard, Histoire de VEspagne^ Tome I, 
p. 296. 

The state of primary education for the working classes was naturally far worse : 
indeed it scarcely existed. The attitude of the governing classes towards it is not 
unfairly illustrated by the remark of Bravo Murillo, one of Isabella's more intel 
ligent ministers : ' You want me to authorize a school at which 600 working men are 
to attend? Not in rny time. Here we don't want men who think, but oxen who 
work.' When a few years later (in 1854) a reactionary and clerical government 
passed a law making education compulsory for all, it was understood that the primary 
schools should be under the control of the Church. That indeed was the purpose of 
the law, and no money for other schools was voted. 



Chapter IV 

THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST 
STRUGGLE IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 

Considering the circumstances in which the country finds 
itself, the most conservative thing is to be a revolutionary. 

FRANCISCO CAMB6. 1 

The European War made a deep Impression on Spain. Opinion was 
divided along the obvious lines : the Army, the Church, the aristocracy 
and the landowners were, with rare exceptions, pro-German; whilst 
the Liberals, the intellectuals, the parries of the Left and the big 
industrialists of Barcelona and Bilbao were pro-Ally. The King suc 
cessfully sat on the fence and till the end of the war was claimed by 
both sides. But no one wished to intervene: the Allies did not press 
their Spanish friends for help since this might have led to a claim for 
Fez or Gibraltar, whilst the pro-German party felt Spain to be too 
isolated to be able to give effective support to their side. 

Besides, the whole country was enriching itself at a tremendous 
rate. Never had so much wheat, so many potatoes or onions been 
grown before or sold at such high prices. The landowners doubled 
and trebled their capital. The workmen's and even the agricultural 
labourers' wages rose, though an even greater rise in the cost of living 
usually offset this. By the end of the war most of the industrial and 
national debt had been redeemed and the gold reserve in the Bank of 
Spain had risen from 23 to 89 millions sterling. But since Spain was 
a sick and disjointed country (invertebrate, as Ortega y Gasset called 
it) the first effect of this addition of strength was to increase the 
power of each separate organ to fight the others. 

The King was now a mature and experienced man. His early taste 
for political changes had grown into a settled desire to rule without a 
parliament. All the well-known symptoms were there the frequent 
military parades, the changing of clothes four or five times a day, the 
rigid court etiquette, the free and easy manners at other times. But he 
had far more talent and, when he pleased, far more personal charm, 
than his prototype the Kaiser. His political skill was quite exceptional, 
only unfortunately he had no understanding of and no care for the 

1 Camb6 in the Boletin de Informaridn, quoted by Burgos y Mazo, Pdginas 
Histdricas de 1917, p. 109. 



58 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

real Interests of Spaniards. His attitude, like that of many of the 
grandees, brought up by foreign nurses and governesses and knowing 
nothing of the world but Paris, Biarritz and Madrid, suggested that of 
a foreigner, chosen to rule over a poor but unfortunately barbaric 
country. As one of the court doctors remarked: 'The King is so 
enthusiastic about Spain.' 

' Only myself and the canaille are on the side of the Allies' was one 
of his sayings that has become famous. It was not every King who 
would habitually have spoken of the immense majority of his sub 
jects both the middle classes and the workers as the canaille. But 
Alfonso was an imitative, impressionable man and absorbed the 
manners and point of view of the deplorable class in which he was 
brought up. 

The event which precipitated the inevitable crisis was the formation 
in the spring of 1917 of the Juntas de Defmsa, or ' Officers' Syndi 
cates', in the Army. But before explaining what these syndicates 
were it would be better to say something of the Army's previous history. 

When the First Carlist War ended the officers of Don Carlos' forces 
were taken on at full pay in those of the Queen: this indeed was one of 
the principal clauses of the Convention that brought the hostilities to 
an end. The result was that by 1843 there were, in spite of the bank 
ruptcy of the State, more officers in the Spanish Army than in any 
other army in Europe. The other ranks were less numerous. The 
proportion of officers to men, which lasted with slight variations for 
the next seventy or eighty years, was one to six or seven. The state of 
the commissariat was so low that the soldiers frequently went barefoot. 

It goes without saying that such a force was of little value in de 
fending the country. Since 1660, both from lack of training and 
discipline and from lack of equipment, Spanish armies had been 
unable to face good European troops. At most they could keep their 
end up against their hereditary enemies the Moors. But the real 
function of the Army was to protect the people against the Carlists, 
and as such it was tolerated and was even on the whole a popular force. 
The generals ruled the country and quarrelled among themselves. 
Isabella's reign shows eighteen major pronunciamientos and thirty- 
nine different cabinets within twenty-five years. To these one must 
add two popular revolutions, also led by generals. Military rule in 
Spain has always been even more unstable than civil government. 

The stormy years of 1868-1874 discredited the Army and allowed 
the middle classes to eliminate it from politics. Then, like the Church 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 59 

and like all the upper layers of society, it underwent a change. Without 
gaining in efficiency as a fighting force, it became more of a closed 
corps, cut off from the rest of the nation. It began to imitate the 
German Army and to assume a Prussian arrogance that in no way 
suited it. For the Spanish Army had always been democratic. In its 
great days in the sixteenth century noblemen served as privates in the 
infantry and officers and common soldiers messed together. The 
close comradeship between the ranks and the excellent discipline 
that resulted from it were, according to English and French observers, 
one of the chief causes of its victories. During the Napoleonic Wars 
this democratic spirit increased till it became fatal to discipline. 
Generals ceased to have authority except when they acted in unison 
with the feelings of their men, and both in victory and in defeat lost all 
control over them. Nor did this cease when the fighting was over. The 
Army remained a people's army with a popular spirit of its own and 
promotion open to talent. A considerable proportion of its officers, 
among them Generals Espartero, O'Donnell and Prim, were chus- 
queros or rankers. It had all the prestige of having saved the country 
from Carlism. Its political role too made it more plastic, more atten 
tive to civilian opinion. It acted almost as often in the interests of the 
Moderate Left as of the Right, and in its repressions of riots or of 
local revolutions it generally showed moderation and humanity. No 
doubt it remembered that it had itself a revolutionary past. But with 
the Restoration this changed, and the decrease of promotion from the 
ranks, as well as the regulation by which anyone could buy himself out 
of military service for a small sum, increased the gulf between the 
officers and men. 

The disastrous Cuban War of 1896-1898 produced a general re 
vulsion in the country against military service. Two hundred thousand 
Spaniards are said to have died of disease and wounds in that island, 
and the ragged, fever-stricken survivors had terrible tales to tell of 
hardship, military incompetence and corruption. The nation became 
pacifist and the Army unpopular. This feeling crystallized in 1909 in 
the rising, already described, in Barcelona against the calling up of the 
reserves for service in Africa. 

The Army itself (or rather the officers that led it) resented this 
attitude. They had become increasingly sensitive to any criticisms 
upon themselves and showed this by forcing the Government to pass 
a law making all offences against the armed forces subject to trial by 
court martial. They also resented their loss of popularity in the 



60 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

country and blamed this upon the Intellectuals, the workmen and the 
politicians, especially the politicians. With disgust they looked on at 
their place-hunting, their corruption and their ineffectiveness and 
remembered how not many years before they themselves had ruled 
the country and had had the pick of all the best posts. It was, after all, 
a very natural feeling, and when the Catalan question came to the 
front and the politicians seemed ready to make terms with the Lliga, 
they felt their opportunity. For the Army officers were mostly Cas- 
tilians and Andalusians and it was the only remnant left of their old 
Liberalism were strongly centralist. They were opposed to any con 
cessions to regionalist feeling and in this they found that a strong 
wave of opinion supported them. The King was on their side and they 
had long before made their peace with the Church. 

But how was the Army composed at this period? In 1912, in full 
peace time, there were rather more than 12,000 officers on the active 
list to about 100,000 men. This figure rose in 1923, during the 
Moroccan War, to some 25,000 officers for about 200,000 other ranks. 
Even in 1931, when the war was long over, there were still 21,000 
officers as many as there were in the German Army when the 
European War broke out. Among the higher ranks may be mentioned 
690 generals, of whom nearly half appear to have been on the active 
list, and colonels in proportion on the active list alone there were 
over 2000. Yet these figures show a falling off, a degeneration : in 1898 
there had been a general for every hundred men. 1 

This Army was expensive. In peace time it took up, together with 
the small Navy, a quarter of the budget. In 1922 it is said to have 
taken 51 per cent. Yet it had no equipment. Even in artillery, an arm 
which has a fine tradition in Spain (Spanish artillery goes back more 
than a hundred years before Roger Bacon and in the sixteenth century 
was the best in Europe), it was absurdly weak. There were no modern 
aeroplanes and not a single tank in Spain down to 1936, although the 
long rolling slopes of the Riff seem made for tanks and a dozen of 
them would have saved many thousands of lives. When I visited 
Xauen in 1924 I found neither reserve trenches nor barbed-wire and 
only one road, so narrow that two limbers could with: difficulty pass on 
it and so badly constructed that the bridges collapsed whenever it 
rained. There appeared to be no precautions whatever against a 
sudden attack and when, not long after my visit, it was decided to 
shorten the line, the confusion that arose led to heavy loss of life. 

1 See Note A on p. 76 at end of chapter. 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 6l 

To what then were the huge army estimates devoted? Not cer 
tainly to the pay of the men, who except for the sergeants and for a few 
native levies in Morocco, were all conscripts. For the sake of economy 
great efforts were made to keep the number of these down. Military 
service, though normally for two years, rarely in practice exceeded 
eighteen months. For a small payment tK's could be reduced to nine 
months. Long periods of leave were also given, so that an army that 
on paper consisted of 80,000 men would in fact be reduced to 
50,000 or even less. That is why an attack by a couple of thousand 
Moorish tribesmen would often lead to a disaster and to a calling up 
of the reserves. 

No, the greater part of the military estimates was spent on of 
ficers' pay. And even they, since there were so many of them, did 
not get much per head. A young married officer could not support 
himself on what he got and had to look round for supplementary 
means of existence. Very few had private incomes. In other words 
the Spanish Army was not a modern military force, but was 
simply one more example of the ordinary over-staffed, under-paid 
Spanish Government institution. Just as successive ministers had 
struggled without success to limit the number of the monks and 
clergy, to control the Government employees, the railway directors 
and holders of sinecures, so they were also faced with the insoluble 
problem of cutting down the Army, 1 

Low pay and little work in positions of responsibility lead every 
where to the same results. Just as Government clerks took bribes, so 
peculation was rife in certain departments of the Spanish Army. In 
Melilla, for example, the money for the roads, for barracks and for 
equipment disappeared into the pockets of the colonels and generals ; 
officers of lesser rank traded in soap, bricks, tiles, fruit and sausages 
and even held a monopoly in them. Private persons who wished to 
put up houses were obliged to employ military engineers, who charged 
exorbitant fees for their work. Others paid their gambling debts by 
selling rifles and ammunition to the tribesmen. 2 Thus in 1922 it was 

1 See Note B on p. 76 at end of chapter. 

2 See Ciges Aparicio, op. cit. p. 412, on the state of affairs at this time in Melilla. 
He also gives this anecdote. The only officer casualty in a small Moroccan campaign 
in 1893 was the Commander-in- Chief, General Margallo. He was reported killed in 
action. Actually he was shot with a revolver by a young lieutenant, Miguel Primo de 
Rivera, later the Dictator, who was indignant that the rifles with which the Moors 
were killing Spanish soldiers had been sold them surreptitiously by the General. 
Senor Ciges Aparicio has been made to pay dearly for repeating this story. He was 
Republican Governor of Avila in July 1936 and was one of the first to be executed there. 



62 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

discovered that 77 million pesetas had been spent by the Ordnance 
depot without any record appearing on the books. 1 The corruption of 
the politicians could be and occasionally was exposed in the press : the 
Army was sacred and anyone who said a word against it went to prison. 
But now that we have looked at the Army from the outside, let us 
try to see things through the eyes of a typical officer. As a young 
man of the middle classes he is attracted to the Army by its glamour: 
he enters it full of high ambitions and patriotic ideals and at once finds 
himself in a very agreeable situation. He wears a smart uniform, is 
the idol of the girls, occupies a much higher social position than he did 
before and has plenty of spare time for enjoying himself. He sees his 
college friends who have chosen to become lawyers or doctors or 
engineers still sweating among their books and, socially speaking, left 
far behind. That is a position that appeals very much to young 
Spaniards. Then one day he gets caught and marries on his captain's 
pay. Everything at once changes. His pay is utterly insufficient. His 
social position is gone. More and more children arrive. Promotion is 
slow. The Spanish Army, which is very inefficient and very badly 
equipped, does not provide the consolation of serious work. The 
recruits spend half their time under the sergeants learning to read. 
There is no money for manoeuvres. The captain naturally becomes a 
discontented and disillusioned man. He has already of course joined 
the vast assemblage of those who sit in clubs or cafes talking politics. 
Any Spaniard will tell you what they say : however much the opinions 
of the cafe politicians may differ, they are all invariably agreed upon 
one thing that the Government is deliberately ruining and dis 
honouring the country. But the captain also remembers that he 
belongs to the Army, to that noble and patriotic corps of officers 
which once gave orders to the politicians, and that he has men with 
rifles and machine guns under his command. And he begins to think 
of all the nice jobs and of all the prestige that come in Spain from 
government. No wonder that he is only waiting for one of those six 
hundred generals to give the word to rise. And those generals have 
not often been backward. In a life of the famous General Weyler his 
biographer remarks that, whatever may be said about him in other 
respects, 'he had the noble distinction of never having risen in arms 
against the Government'. 2 

1 See The Martyrdom of Spain, by Alfred Mendizdbal, p. 63. The Dictatorship, 
so eager to expose scandals among the politicians, hushed up this one. 

2 His biographer spoke too soon, however. In 1925, at the age of 87, Weyler 
joined a plot against Primo de Rivera and was heavily fined for it. The punishment 
was all the harder to bear for his being a notorious*miser. 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 63 

We come then to the spring of 1917 and to the setting up of the 
Juntas de Defensa or * Officers' Syndicates' in the Army. 'The Army 
Officers*, says Senor Madariaga, 'took a weapon from the arsenal of 
Syndicalist labour and turned against the State the force which the 
State had entrusted to them/ The first object, however, of these 
Juntas was not unreasonable. It was to reform abuses that had grown 
up within the Army itself. They were determined to protect them 
selves against the caciquismo or favouritism that had its seat in the 
Cam Militar or 'Military Household* of the King, to insist on the re 
organization of the medical corps and commissariat and, like any 
labour union, to obtain an increase of pay for themselves. 1 They 
forced one government to resign and in June compelled the head of 
the new government, Dato, to accept their ultimatum and to legalize 
them. 

It was by no means, however, at first apparent that the Juntas 
would take a reactionary direction. Some of their leaders were 
spoken of as Republicans. They had grown up as part of the Renova 
tion movement, as it was called, which swept across Spain that 
summer and whose objects were to get rid of the corrupt political 
regime and to call a freely elected Cortes that would draw up a new 
Constitution. At the head of this movement were the Catalan indus 
trialists of the Lliga under Cambo, the industrialists of Bilbao and 
Oviedo under Melquiades Alvarez, and the Socialist party. The 
Radicals too supported it, and all over Spain it had the sympathy of 
large sections of the middle classes, especially of the more intelligent 
and progressive men under forty. In July the members of the two 
Chambers of the Cortes who favoured the movement (there were 71 
out of 760) met at Barcelona and announced that they considered 
themselves permanently constituted as an Assembly whose object it 
would be to prepare the way for a freely elected Constituent Cortes. 
The Assembly was forbidden by the Government, but continued to 
meet in secret. 

This was a critical moment in Spanish history. The large indus 
trialists of Spain, in alliance with the Socialists and other Left-wing 
parties, had come out in open revolution against the Government. It 

1 The sudden rise in the cost of living, due to the submarine campaign and to the 
influx of gold into the Bank of Spain, was the immediate cause of the discontent in 
the Army, which led to the formation of the Juntas. This, of course, affected other 
classes besides the Army as the Juntas of Government employees, doctors, engineers 
and even of priests that sprang up in imitation of the military Juntas show. The 
workers* protest had come a year earlier, in 1916, when a series of strikes all over 
Spain led to an increase of wages. 



64 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

was not any longer a mere question of Basque or Catalan regionalism. 
What was to be decided was whether the factory owners of the north 
or the large landowners of Castile and Andalusia should have the chief 
share in governing the country: it was the same question that had been 
settled a century before in England by the Reform Bill. The rotten 
boroughs of 1832 had their equivalent in the caciquismo of 1917. For 
Cambo no longer asked merely for an autonomous Catalonia. He 
voiced the general demand for a regenerate Spain, ruled by govern 
ments which should be modern, decent and efficient and which should 
make a serious attempt to solve the fundamental economic problems 
of the country. He was prepared to see this happen either within a 
monarchy or within a federal republic. 

At this moment the deciding factor was the Army. Both the Reno 
vation parties and the King were trying to attract it. It was uncertain 
which way the Juntas (who represented what one might call the Left 
wing of the Army) would move. For though they were in general 
sympathy with the Renovation movement, they were strongly opposed 
to Catalan autonomy or to any form of federalism and did not see with 
pleasure the rising excitement of the working classes. The Socialists 
and Radicals of Lerroux had made efforts to attract the rank and file. 
Juntas of sergeants, of telegraphists, of postmen and Government 
clerks, modelled on those of the officers, sprang up everywhere, and it 
was believed that, if it came to street fighting, the troops would refuse 
to fire. 

At this very delicate moment there happened to be in progress a 
strike of the Northern Railway workers who belonged to the Socialist 
union, the U.G.T. The strike was on the point of being settled when 
the Government, which wished to provoke a general crisis before the 
new movement should come to a head, refused to accept the agreed 
terms. The Socialist party took up the glove that had been thrown 
down and called a general strike of all its workers. The Anarchists, 
rather half-heartedly, joined in. On 10 August 1917 the strike began. 

The veteran leader of the Socialist party, Pablo Iglesias, had 
thought the moment inopportune and therefore opposed it, but he 
was old and at the moment ill in bed and the effective leadership 
passed to a younger man, Francisco Largo Caballero. In those days 
the theory of the general strike, which had been developed by the 
French Syndicalists and then been tried out by the C.G.T., was very 
much in the air in Spain. It was believed to be the one effective 
weapon of the working classes, a sure means to the socialist or anar- 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 65 

chist goal. So hopeful were the leaders of success that Lerroux, it is 
said, expected to be President of the Republic within a week. But the 
troops were called out and used their machine guns against the 
strikers. The strike collapsed in three days, leaving seventy dead, 
hundreds of wounded and two thousand prisoners. The troops were 
thought to have behaved barbarously and the Juntas lost all the 
popularity they had acquired among the people as enemies of the 
Government but the Army had 'saved the nation' and from now on 
was, with the King, the only real power in the country. 

The Assembly met again in October. But there was no longer 
anything to be done. Cambo had always seen that against the Army 
no revolution was possible. No doubt too, as a Conservative banker 
and industrialist, he was not anxious to see a middle-class revolution 
brought in by a general strike. He therefore allowed himself to be 
drawn over to the King. To avert the immediate danger of a military 
dictatorship, for the new Cortes was unmanageable, 1 a 'government of 
concentration' was formed of the leaders of all the parties Maura, 
Rornanones, Cambo, Santiago Alba and so on but apart from re 
leasing the Socialists' strike leaders, Largo Caballero, Besteiro, Saborit 
and Anguiano, who had been given a life sentence, it accomplished little. 

From now onwards the only solution had become a military dicta 
torship. As Maura said: QuegoUernen los que no defangobernar: 'Let 
those govern who prevent anyone else from doing so.' But there were 
still one or two obstacles that delayed it. The King wished for a regime 
that would allow him to rule himself through the Army: he by no 
means wanted to give the Juntas complete power. Then the victory of 
the Allies and the fall of kings all over Europe made him pause a little. 
But he saw to it that there was no political revival and that the decay 
and breaking up of the political parties went on. One result of this 
was that when, many years later, Primo de Rivera fell, there was not a 
single politician of any party except the arch-cacique and reactionary 
La Cierva who would stand up for him. 

The scene now shifts to Barcelona. The failure of the Lliga to 
support the general strike had ruined it in the eyes of many of its 
supporters. The rich bourgeoisie were more ready than before to rest 
content with that secret pact, which, in the phrase of Cambo, had been 

1 Although 36 millions of pesetas were spent by La Cierva on buying votes in the 
elections of March 1918, the majority required by the Government was not obtained. 
The electorate was refusing to be deceived and coerced any longer. See S. Canals, 
Crdnica de Politico, interior en nuestros tiempos. 



66 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

sealed between Madrid and Barcelona; the pact by which Castile be 
came the economic tributary of Catalonia whilst Catalonia remained 
the political tributary of Castile. 1 In all matters of tariffs, and indeed 
in the economic sphere in general, Madrid now gave Cambo a free 
hand. Thus the Lliga, which had always been a Conservative party, 
became more and more clerical and reactionary and lost supporters, 
whilst a number of new Catalan parties sprang up everywhere with Left 
sympathies. It was these small parties that later on merged together 
under Colonel Macia to form the Esquerra or Left party of Catalonia. 

Meanwhile, however, the labour troubles that have given Barcelona 
such a bad repute abroad had begun again. And once more, as in 
1906-1909, they had a complex origin. In the first place the German 
Government during the last year of the war had spent large sums on 
seditious propaganda among the working classes : Barcelona had be 
come the refuge of every sort of international criminal: a horde of 
spies, agents provocateurs, gangsters and pistoleros intervened in 
labour disputes and offered their services to anyone who might desire 
them. There was then the immense stimulus of the Russian Revolu 
tion to the Anarchists and of the Peace Treaties with their principle of 
racial determination to the Catalan Nationalists. The factory owners 
too had been making large sums out of the war, whilst the workmen 
had received increases of wages. Every section felt strong enough to 
push their claims. 

During the past year the Anarchists, disappointed by the failure of 
the general strike, had been reorganizing themselves in syndicates. 
Their new trade union, the Confederation National del Trdbajo, or 
C.N.T. as it is usually called, had converted most of its craft unions 
into factory unions, or sindicatos de ramo, which became known as 
sindicatos unicos. They were tactically more effective than the old 
unions and led to more violent action: in theory their strikes were not 
merely a downing of tools, but were acts of open war against their 
employers and the police who supported them. In practice, however, 
one has to distinguish between two elements one the new syndicalist 
or trade-union element embracing the vast majority of the workers, 
which under its leaders Segui and Pestana was opposed to violent 
action, and the other consisting of more or less dissident anarchist 
groups who still clung to discarded ideas of individual action: it was 

1 See Camb6's speech at Saragossa in December 1911, quoted by A. Marvaud, 
UEspagm au XXieme Siecle, p. 160. 'What can you expect of a party*, exclaimed 
Unamuno, * which is capable of selling its soul for a tariff! * 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 67 

among these that, in reply to police repression, terrorist centres of 
action were formed. 

But the employers had been organizing themselves too. Industry 
in Barcelona was still foreign firms excepted in a primitive stage; 
there were few large enterprises or factories, but a great many small 
ones, competing together in an anarchical manner. 1 The factory 
owners were usually self-made men often they had risen from being 
foremen and were therefore very hard and uncompromising with 
their workmen. Up to the war they had followed an oblique line of 
attack on the C.N.T. by organizing blackleg labour from the un 
limited reservoirs in the villages and in the starving provinces of the 
south as well as from certain unions which had a Catholic label. Then 
in 1914 they held a congress of employers' federations which laid 
down a definite plan of action and now, seeing the more aggressive 
attitude of the workers' unions and the immense and alarming in 
crease in their numbers, they decided to give battle to the C.N.T. by 
means of a lock-out. In the usual Spanish style they began to prepare 
the ground by employing agents provocateurs. 

In the complicated series of events that now follows, a difference of 
opinion between the civil and military authorities in Barcelona was 
one of the principal factors in exacerbating the situation. The Civil 
Governor, Senor Montanes, with the support of the Government in 
Madrid, disapproved of the employers' conduct and took up a con 
ciliatory attitude towards the workmen. In this he was, of course, 
merely continuing the policy which had led his predecessors ten years 
before to back the Radicals against the Catalan Nationalists, though it 
was also in accord with the conciliatory attitude of Conservative 
governments at this time and with their genuine desire to see an 
improvement in the condition of the working classes. But the military 
Juntas, through their representative General Milans del Bosch, the 
Cap tain- General of the Province, whose office made him a sort of 
Viceroy, sided with the employers and even urged them on to * give 
battle'. It was a paradoxical situation, this union of the Catalan 
Nationalists with the anti-Catalan Army and a proof, if any were 
needed, that for the Lliga the social question took precedence over the 
Catalan one. For the Army it was a way to win over the Catalan 
bourgeoisie to their camp, and, if not, so to discredit them in the eyes 

i g ee Joaqufn Aguilera, secretary of the Fomento del Trabajo Nacional and of the 
Cdmara Oficial de la Industria de Barcelona, on the lack of organization amounting 
to anarchy of the Catalan industries and banking system (El Trabajo National, 
16 March 1910). 



68 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

of their countrymen that they would be harmless. It therefore placed 
no limit to the support it would give. Whereas in 1908 the bombs had 
been laid by men in the pay of the Civil Governor, the pistoleros were 
now organized from the Cap tain- General's headquarters. 

These terrorist gangs, who worked at different times under the 
orders of the civil and military authorities in Barcelona, require some 
further explanation. They grew up in close association with the police. 
The Spanish political police or Brigada Social, formed in the nineties 
to investigate the anarchist bomb outrages, was, as one would expect, 
a lazy, incompetent body without any technical training and therefore 
very badly informed. It relied largely upon private denunciations for 
its information and as it had few scruples it seldom took the trouble to 
investigate them on its own account. Thus there grew up in close 
touch with it and indeed under its orders various gangs of professional 
confidentes or informers, who were paid for their information. These 
gangs also co-operated with specially interested bodies, such as the 
Federation of Employers. When a crime occurred, they gave infor 
mation as to the supposed authors and, as it was usually easier to 
inculpate an innocent man than to find the criminal, they became 
adepts at faking evidence and at planting bombs or incriminating 
material upon innocent people. For this purpose they would of 
course choose workmen whose activities as strike leaders or as propa 
gandists of anarchism made them objectionable to the owners and to 
the police, and from this it was not a long step to incriminating such 
people as were officially indicated to them. But this was not all. The 
business of a police informer is exposed like all others to the ups and 
downs of the trade cycle. In the dead seasons crimes would become 
scarce and it then stood to the interest of the informers to create them 
by laying bombs themselves. This had been the case with Rull in 1908, 
with the addition that he had received encouragement if not actual 
orders from the Civil Governor for his acts of terrorism. It had also 
been the case with at least one famous bomb outrage in the nineties. 

Now the conditions in Barcelona in 1918 were especially suited to 
the growth of terrorist gangs of this description. During the last years 
of the war, when the city had become a refuge for criminal elements of 
every kind, collected from all over Europe, German money had been 
lavishly spent on organizing strikes in munition factories and even on 
murdering factory owners who refused to stop making munitions for 
the Allies. A certain Bravo Portillo was at the head of an organization 
of this sort and controlled a gang of pistoleros. He had been found 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 69 

guilty of supplying Germany with information of the sailings of 
Spanish ships from Mediterranean ports, which had led to their being 
torpedoed, and had been sentenced to a short term of imprisonment. 
In spite of this serious conviction, he was, on his release from prison, 
taken on as a police agent by the Captain- General, Miians del Bosch, 
and by the Employers' Federation. When a little later he was killed as 
a reprisal for the particularly brutal murder of a syndicalist leader, 
Pablo Sabater, which he had organized, his place was taken by a 
German adventurer, who went by the name of the Baron de Koenig, 
but whose true name seems to have been Colman. This Koenig or 
Colman, who had also acted as a German spy during the war, worked 
on the orders of General Arlegui, the chief of police of the Captain- 
General's office, and of the Marques de Foronda, one of the leading 
figures of the Lliga and a close friend of the King. His job was not 
only to make away with leading syndicalists or to produce faked 
evidence that could lead to their incrimination: it was also to provoke 
the working classes to retaliation, which would lead to conditions that 
would force the Government to give up negotiating with the strikers 
and suspend the constitutional guarantees: this would reduce to 
nothing the powers of the Civil Governor and make the Captain- 
General sole ruler in Barcelona. The desired lock-out could then be 
brought off. But Koenig had his own way of interpreting Ms mission. 
He was a man who lived on a lavish scale and needed money. He 
therefore took to blackmailing the factory owners, warning them that 
their lives were in danger and that they must pay him certain sums to 
ensure their safety. Those who refused to pay were shot. His relations 
with the Cap tain- General's police gave him immunity for more than a 
year, but in the end his murders became too daring, his band was 
broken up and he was forced to flee from Spain. 1 

1 In Los Archives del Terrorismo Blanco, by Pedro Foix (1931), are published 
photostat copies of documents taken from the secret dossier of the Captain-General's 
police agents. One of these documents inculpates the police in laying bombs in the 
house of a syndicalist named Bueso so as to have a case against him. F. Madrid in 
Ocho Meses y un Dia en el Gobierno Civil de Barcelona gives the whole story of these 
events and quotes from the official reports of two Civil Governors, Amado and 
Carlos Bas, as well as from statements made to the press by Pestana and Seguf 
Most enlightening of all is Burgos y Mazo's El Verano de 1919 en Gobernacion. This 
is an account by the Conservative Minister for Home Affairs in Sanchez Toca's 
Government of the almost unbelievable difficulties put in the way of a settlement of 
the disorders in Barcelona by the military Juntas, the Catalan federation of em 
ployers and the Captain- General of Catalonia, who wanted only one thing an open 
conflict with the workmen and were prepared to stoop to any means to obtain it. 
See also Madariaga, Spain, pp. 414-416 and p. 218; M. Buenacasa, El Movimiento 
Obrero Espanol, and M. Fernandez Almagro, op. cit. 



7O THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

On the other side the workmen had their pistoleros too. During the 
last two years the C.N.T. had enormously increased its member 
ship: all kinds of doubtful characters, including many professional 
criminals, had entered into it. Then the Anarchist movement had 
always, since 1882, included groups who believed in individual acts of 
terrorism, though the members of these groups never or rarely oc 
cupied positions of influence in the syndicalist organization. They 
were free lances, whose action was generally disapproved by the 
leaders, but who enjoyed a certain popularity and support whenever 
they were considered to be avenging acts of oppression in other 
words when a strike had taken place and failed and the leaders were in 
prison. For the fact that the Spanish syndicalist organizations do not 
give strike pay means that their strikes are conducted in an atmo 
sphere of hunger that easily leads to violence. A prolongation of the 
strike produces acts of sabotage and of conflict with the police, whilst 
a failure produces an atmosphere of resentment and a loosening of 
solidarity in the syndicates that gives individual terrorists their oppor 
tunity. In the present case, therefore, though it was the employers' 
gunmen who began hostilities, the syndicalist gunmen were not be 
hindhand in replying. 

Such then were the conditions under which the struggle between 
the syndicates and the factory owners began. In February 1919 the 
workers of the large electrical company of Riegos y Fuerza del Ebro, 
generally known as the Canadiense, struck work. Their grievances 
were not very serious ones : they demanded the reinstatement of seven 
men who had been dismissed for political reasons and higher wages 
for certain of the employees, but the strike had been carefully or 
ganized by Segui and Pestaiia and had a certain symbolical impor 
tance. It followed on a spectacular propaganda campaign throughout 
the country and was the first important test of the C.N.T. and of the 
new sindicatos tinicos. The English manager of the company was pre 
pared to compromise, all the more so because the conditions of work 
in the Canadiense were below the average, but on the advice of the 
Captain-General he changed his mind and refused all conversations. 
The strike, which had begun with only a partial stoppage, became 
more drastic and light was cut off, but there were no disturbances. It 
is here that one sees the Spanish military mind at work. The reply of 
the authorities to this perfectly peaceable strike was to imprison all the 
syndicalist leaders, to declare military law and to call up the strikers 
to the colours. But this was not what the Government wanted. 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 Jl 

Romanones, then Prime Minister, sent down to Barcelona a special 
emissary; the men and the owners met and terms were agreed on. The 
strike ended. But the Captain-General refused to release the im 
prisoned leaders, which was one of the terms that had been agreed on, 
so that the next day a general strike in Barcelona began. It lasted a 
fortnight and was carried through with perfect solidarity by more than 
100,000 workers. 1 What is more, it was peaceable: not a revolver was 
fired, not a person was injured a remarkable tribute to Segui's in 
fluence in that unruly city. However, the military arrested many 
thousands of workmen and, in the usual Spanish style, gave sentences 
of imprisonment amounting to seventeen hundred years sentences 
which of course would not be carried out. The end of the strike 
was inconclusive: neither owners nor men could claim a victory, 
but the day after it was over General Milans del Bosch put the 
Civil Governor, Montanes, and his chief of police, Doval, on the 
train and sent them back to Madrid. Romanones resigned before 
this act of violence and Maura came in on the insistence of the King 
(April 1919). 

But Maura was now old and out of touch with affairs and his ultra- 
reactionary colleagues, La Cierva and the rest, had the real control. 
Military law was declared, more labour leaders were imprisoned and 
Bravo Portillo's gangs ofpistoleros let loose. The syndicalist pistoleros 
replied and the situation went from bad to worse. In Andalusia, 
where there was a general effervescence, military law was declared and 
troops were sent down to suppress the strikers on the large estates. 
Very corrupt elections were held, but such was the state of opinion in 
the country that most of the official candidates failed to get in. The 
outcry led to the fall of Maura's Government and a Conservative 
Government under Sanchez Toca took its place. 

This set about dealing with the situation in Barcelona in a sensible 
and tactful way. Senor Amado, the new Civil Governor, perceived 
that the terrorist groups among the workers did not have the approval 
of the syndicalist leaders. They could only act because the latter were 
in prison. He therefore saw to it that the leaders were released and set 
up conciliation boards to adjust conditions with the employees. The 
position at once improved and assassinations came to an end. After 

1 See Fernandez Almagro, op. cit. for this figure. But owing to the cutting of the 
electric current a far greater number than this were thrown out of work. Indeed the 
stoppage was total. Such a strike had never been seen in Spain before. When it was 
over the Government in alarm passed laws decreeing an eight-hour day and 
obligatory pensions for workers. 



72 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

endless difficulties for the employers were unwilling to negotiate 
and there was opposition among the syndicalists too terms were 
agreed on and seventy thousand men went back to work. But the 
group of extremists who controlled the employers' federation and who 
had all along worked to prevent agreement, refused at the last minute 
to take back the workmen's leaders and so the strike began again. The 
Government, undermined by a campaign in the reactionary press and 
by the intrigues of the military Juntas and of the King, fell (Sep 
tember 1919), and a feeble administration took its place. 

This was the opportunity long awaited by the employers to 'give 
battle*. They at once declared a lock-out. Syndicalists were arrested 
in large numbers, the constitutional guarantees were suspended and a 
campaign of murder and counter murder began. Rival gangs of 
terrorists roamed the streets and assassinations took place every week. 
This situation continued without respite all winter till in March 1920 
a new government under the Conservative leader Dato came in. By 
that time a great many people on both sides, including the new 
reactionary Civil Governor, had been assassinated. 1 

Dato came in with a policy of appeasement. He appointed as Civil 
Governor a humane and moderate man, Carlos Bas. But now that 
passions on both sides were roused, appeasement was much more 
difficult. The employers asked that the C.N.T., the trade union to 
which 80 per cent of the workers in Catalonia belonged, should be 
suppressed and that the syndicalist leaders should be shot. Bas ob 
served, however, that though the C.N.T. had been declared illegal 
more than six months before, it still existed in secret and received 
regular contributions from the workers, and as to the syndicalist 
leaders, far from shooting them, he was anxious that they should be 
released from prison and restored to the control of their organizations. 
He had convinced himself that Segui, Pestana and the rest were 
opposed to acts of terrorism, but that in the circumstances they could 
not restrain their gunmen. He also broke up Koenig's band which had 
been shooting both syndicalists and such employers as refused to be 
blackmailed, and set up machinery for settling the new strikes that had 

1 There was an economic motive too in the growth of pistolerismo. After the 
general strike of March 1919 the employers began dismissing the more unruly of 
their workmen. Some of these left Barcelona, but others stayed and, not being able 
to obtain work, were organized as delegados de taller by the Syndicates. They were 
given pistols and their weekly pay, and their chief duty was to see that the workers, 
who were beginning to fall off, paid their subscriptions. When the lock-out came 
and the Syndicates ceased to be able to pay these men, they turned to ordinary 
assassination. 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 73 

broken out. But the employers' federation had other terrorists in 
their pay besides Koenig's (in July one of these threw a bomb into a 
crowded workmen's music hall, thePompeya) and after the Governor's 
decision that the principal strike, that of the transport workers, was 
justified because the employers were not complying with the law that 
regulated the hours of employment, the federation refused to meet 
him. A scene between the Civil Governor and the Captain- General, 
Martinez Anido, followed which made further collaboration between 
them impossible. The King intervened and compelled the Govern 
ment to dismiss Bas and to appoint General Martinez Anido Civil 
Governor, with full authority to apply any means he thought neces 
sary for putting an end to the disturbances in Barcelona. 1 

The means chosen by Martinez Anido were neither legal ones nor 
even those sanctioned by military law, such as arbitrary Imprison 
ment and trial by court martial. The employers had founded shortly 
before a small trade union subservient to their interests which called 
itself the Sindicato Libre. 2 It contained a fair proportion of gunmen. 
General Arlegui, Martinez Anido's chief of police, reorganized and 
armed these and gave them a list of the syndicalist leaders whom they 
were to shoot at sight. In the first thirty-six hours twenty-one leading 
syndicalists were killed. Another method was the so-called ley de 
fugas. The police arrested syndicalists and shot them as they were 
being conducted to the police station: they were reported as 'shot 
trying to escape'. A third method was to arrest workmen and then 
release them: a gang of pistoleros would be waiting for them outside 
the prison and they would be killed before they could reach the com 
parative safety of the workers' districts. As the murders increased on 
both sides (for the syndicalists exacted strict reprisals in sixteen 
months 230 people were shot in the street) feeling in Barcelona and all 
over Spain rose to a pitch of hysteria. Cambo applauded all Martinez 
Anido's acts. But the assassinations went on and in May 1921 the 
Prime Minister, Dato, was killed in Madrid as a reprisal for the 

1 Martfnez Anido's character was well known and his appointment was an act of 
defiance to all moderate and humane opinion in the country. His disagreement with 
Bas was due to the fact that he had supported extra-legal means for dealing with 
terrorism : he is said to have shown Bas a list of 675 syndicalists whom, he declared, 
ought to- be shot outright. Unamuno describes him as follows : ' The man is a pure 
brute he can't even talk, he can only roar and bray, though his roars and brays 
always mean something.' 

He was appointed Minister for Home Affairs by Primo de Rivera and again, in 
I937> by Franco. He died in 1938. 

2 See Note C on p. 76 at end of chapter. 



74 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

terrorist acts of the Civil Governor of Barcelona. 1 Dato was the third 
Prime Minister to be assassinated in revenge for police atrocities 
within little over twenty years. Until a military disaster in Morocco 
weakened the prestige of the Army and Martinez Anido could be got 
rid of, the terrorism in Barcelona continued and indeed got worse. 2 
Even his removal did not end it, for his pistoleros no longer required 
his hand to guide them, but continued the war on their own account. 
Thus in March 1923 Salvador Segui was murdered in the streets of 
Barcelona and not long after the Cardinal Archbishop of Saragossa 
was killed in revenge. It was not until the coming in of the Dictator 
ship with its suppression both of the Anarcho- Syndicalists and of the 
Lliga and of all traces of Catalan Nationalism, and with at the same 
time the setting up of those compulsory commissions of employers 
and workmen which were so distasteful to the militants of both 
parties, that peace was finally restored. 3 

The disaster in Morocco was the last episode of the old parliamen 
tary regime. The King was anxious for a striking success which would 
enable him finally to get rid of parliament. He was impatient at the 
slow methods of political penetration employed in the Riff and decided 
to direct operations himself over the heads of the War Office. His 
nominee for the work was a cavalry officer, General Silvestre, whose 
brusque, daring ways he admired. Silvestre was to march his column 
across the Riff from Melilla to Alhucemas, a distance of about forty 
miles. The date of his arrival was timed to coincide with a speech 

1 It is typical of Spain that though the police could murder syndicalist leaders 
who were trying to restrain the gunmen on their side, Dato's murderer could not be 
executed. The death penalty could be imposed for merely wounding in self-defence 
a policeman or an officer, but not for murdering a Prime Minister in cold blood. 
And, as usual in anarchist crimes, the penalty fell upon a man who had little respon 
sibility for what was done during his term of office. * I did not fire at Dato *, the 
assassin confessed, c but at the Government which permitted the ley defugas.' Those 
most responsible for the reign of terror in Barcelona La Cierva, Martinez Anido, 
and, one must add, the King escaped unhurt. 

2 The recall of Martfnez Anido occurred in this way. Angel Pestana had been 
seriously wounded by the General's gunmen and was taken to the hospital at 
Manresa to recover. A band of pistoleros was posted at the door to shoot him as he 
came out. When this became known and was published in the press a scandal was 
created. At the same time the Government became aware of the details of an attack 
which Martinez Anido had staged upon himself, with the object of creating an 
atmosphere which would allow him to intensify the terrorism against the Anarcho- 
Syndicalists. This seemed too much, and his resignation was demanded. For two 
years he had ruled Barcelona like a dictator, allowing no interference from the 
Government in Madrid, and, when he left, the state of the city was worse than when 
he came in. The number of political assassinations in Catalonia between January 
1919 and December 1923 totalled over 700. 

3 See Note D on p. 77 at end of chapter. 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 75 

which the King would make at the solemn translation of the remains 
of the Cid to Burgos Cathedral. This would also coincide with the day 
of St James Matamoros, Kill-Moor the old patron saint of Spain. 
But two days before this date (23 June 1921) Silvestre's column, which 
had advanced without precautions, was ambushed by a much smaller 
force of Abd-el-Krim's tribesmen at Annual. Ten thousand were 
killed, four thousand were taken prisoner, all the rifles, artillery, 
machine guns and aeroplanes were captured. Scarcely anyone es 
caped. Silvestre himself committed suicide. A week or two later the 
fortified position of Monte Arruit was compelled to surrender. The 
men, some seven thousand, were massacred : the officers were carried 
off in chains and held to ransom. Melilla itself was only saved with 
difficulty. 

The commission of enquiry found that the advance had been under 
taken in the most reckless manner, without proper political or material 
preparation. Also that a state of great indiscipline and confusion had 
prevailed : that many of the leading officers had left their units in the 
field to attend the opening of a Kursaal at Melilla: that others were 
on leave in Malaga and that the airmen slept far away from their 
machines. But certain information could not be published for 
example, the letter of the King to Silvestre found, so it was said, 
among his papers, which ordered him to 'do as I tell you and pay no 
attention to the Minister of War, who is an imbecile'. 

A long contest now began. The country wished to expose the King, 
the King to conceal his responsibility, the Army which also felt 
itself attacked to protect him. In the end it appeared as if the King 
would lose. A new commission of enquiry had finished its labours and 
was about to publish its report. Everyone knew that it threw the chief 
responsibility on Alfonso. Twelve days later the Cortes was to meet to 
discuss it. A week before the report of the commission was due (on 
13 September 1923) Primo de Rivera, the new Captain- General of 
Catalonia, proclaimed himself Dictator. 

Ever since 1917, when the only legitimate or honest solution the 
calling of a freely elected Corteshad been turned down by the King 
and by the landowning classes that supported him, it had been obvious 
that either a military dictatorship or a Republic was inevitable. The 
syndicalist terror at Barcelona had reduced the Catalan bourgeoisie to 
quiescence or even to approval. The King's own responsibility for 
Annual had made further delay impossible. But two things may at 
least be noticed the Dictator took power with the permission of the 



76 THE ARMY AND THE SYNDICALIST STRUGGLE 

Army, but not as its nominee. And the King, who had been saved by 
him from an ignominious situation, was condemned to something 
that he very much disliked playing second fiddle. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER IV 

A (p. 60). I rely chiefly on A. Marvaud (UEspagne au XXieme Siecle) and 
Madariaga (Spain} for these figures. That for 1923 is confirmed by Nicolo Pascazio, 
an Italian journalist who obtained his information from Right-wing sources. The 
statistics supplied by various Spanish Governments to the League of Nations 
Armament Year Book are intended less to enlighten than to conceal. Thus, till the 
Republic came in, the figures for troops in Morocco are not given and, after its entry, 
the statistics are so drawn up as to have as few points of comparison as possible with 
those of the previous period. However, so far as they go, they agree with the other 
figures. 

For those who are curious on these matters, here are the figures for 1851 collected 
by an industrious German historian. In that year there were 10 captain-generals, 
203 field-marshals, 78 lieutenant-generals and 345 brigadier-generals. The war 
strength of the Army was 180,000 and its peace strength about half. (Spaniens 
Verfassungskampf, seine Parteien und hervorragendsten Staatsmanner, 1812-1854, 
Leipzig, 1854, p. 6.) 

Even civil war and a complete change in personnel could not alter this system. 
The New Model Army formed by the Republic in 1937-1938 contained one officer 
to every ten men. 

B (p. 61). The Navy, according to Antonio Maura, was just as bad. In 1890 the 
technical education of the Navy (upkeep of academies, etc.) cost 3,484,948 pesetas. 
The total amount spent on civil education in the country (including the upkeep of 
museums, archives and libraries) was only 5,949,396 pesetas. Yet the Navy had no 
engineering or technical instruction. The ships, always anchored in the port, were 
fitted with telephone lines to the shore. There were only 597 naval officers appointed 
to ships for 1900 who had shore appointments. (Speech by Maura in the Cortes, 
14 May 1890. Quoted in 35 anos de Vida Publica, vol. i, pp. 96-114.) 

When Maura came into office a dozen years later the first thing he did was to 
remedy this. 

C (p- 73)- The Sindicatos Libres were founded in October 1919 by a young man 
called Ramdn Sales with the collusion of the employers' federation. The majority of 
its members were workmen who for one reason or another were tired of Anarcho- 
Syndicalist methods and wished to belong to a union which would defend their 
interests without forcing them along a revolutionary road. Its leaders held many 
ideas that would to-day be called fascist for example they professed extreme 
patriotism and maintained that their rivals were being supported by German- 
Jewish bankers. The Anarcho-Syndicalists naturally regarded them as yellow and 
from the first moment there was bitter enmity between them. 

When in November 1920 Martfnez Anido became Civil Governor of Barcelona he 
took them under his protection and reorganized their pistoleros. They then expanded 
rapidly. Not only were their rivals, the Sindicatos tfnicos, suppressed, but the 
Catalan employers hastened to dismiss such of their workmen as had belonged to 
them and to put others from the Sindicatos Libres in their place. In the war of 
pistoleros that followed the Kbres had the full support of the Civil Governor and his 
police, and immunity for all the murders they might commit. 

Very soon, with the encouragement of the military authorities, they began to take 
their syndical functions more seriously. They launched a series of strikes which 
alienated the employers' association, and created a bank clerks' syndicate in spite of 



IN BARCELONA, 1916-1923 77 

the strong opposition of the bankers. Thus at the moment of the coup d'etat that 
brought in the Dictatorship, Primo de Rivera, who had succeeded Martinez Anido, 
held the balance of power in Catalonia. When later they became the only trade union 
in Catalonia and were joined by almost all the workers in Barcelona, they were used 
to keep the Lliga quiet. That is to say, just as Madrid politicians had supported first 
the Radicals and then the Anarcho-Syndicalists against the Catalan bourgeoisie, so 
the Army found a similar lever in its own creation, the Sindicatos Libres* Madrid 
can only rule Catalonia by dividing it. 

D (p. 74)- The attitude of the employers (or rather of the small section of ex 
tremist^ who had led them during the past few years) has this to be said for it. They 
saw the immense increase since 1917 of the Anarcho- Syndicalist trade union and the 
success of its propagandist campaigns. This union was led by convinced anarchists, 
who, though they might disapprove of terrorist acts, were only awaiting the first 
opportunity to attempt a social revolution. In Russia the Bolshevists had just seized 
power. In Italy the workmen had occupied the factories. They were terrified lest 
such a thing might occur in Spain. Had they been guided by their intelligence they 
would have seen that there was then no possibility of a successful revolution in their 
country and that the best means indeed the only means of weakening the revolu 
tionary movement was to show themselves ready to satisfy some of the claims of the 
workers. Instead they decided to see if they could not forcibly arrest it by giving it 
battle in a lock-out and defeating it: the workmen, they believed, would then desert 
the syndicalist ranks and the movement would decline. 

But the methods of combat they chose were not such as employers of labour 
usually adopt. By the use of agents provocateurs and of terrorist bands they de 
liberately set out to stir up the violent elements on the other side. This, they knew, 
would not only impair the solidarity of the workers and undermine the position of 
their leaders, but would create a state of alarm through the country which would 
allow them to call on all the powers of the State to suppress the Anarcho-Syndicalist 
movement. And that is why, at the height of the repression, it was not the gunmen 
of the other side whom Martinez Anido's pistoleros had orders to shoot, but rather 
those very leaders who were doing what they could to put an end to the assassinations. 

There is, of course, nothing new about such tactics in Spain : since 1812 they have 
been the traditional procedure of all extreme Right-wing parties. The Apostdlicos 
employed them in 1822, the Carlists whenever the opportunity offered, the Falan 
gists in the summer of 1936. In the present case they were, for the time being at 
least, successful. They led to the demoralization and disintegration of the whole 
labour movement in Catalonia. But the employers 5 federation, whose policy this had 
been, paid for their success in the ruin of their own party, the Lliga, and in the 
suppression for seven years of all Catalan liberties. Their ally, the Army, whose 
triumph they had prepared, when it came into power had no pity on them. 

If that were all, it would not be much. But when two bodies within the State 
fight a Voutrance in this manner, without rules or limits or regard either for the law 
or for the most elementary decencies, it is the whole nation that suffers. The decline 
of moral standards that follows cannot be measured, but one may say that the present 
civil war with all the hatred and savagery it has produced is the direct outcome of a 
century and a quarter of blind struggles of this kind in which the protagonists have 
been prepared to go to any lengths of violence or provocation to achieve their 
objects. Not only have the Anarchists, who in Spain are for the most part embittered 
and poverty-stricken workmen, with many good reasons for feeling as they do, 
resorted to * direct action* that is to sabotage and murder: the Church, the Army, 
the employers, the landowners, the State itself have all at different times, whenever 
their interests have appeared to them to be jeopardized, put their hands without 
scruple to actions of this sort. If therefore I have devoted so much space to these 
five sordid years in Barcelona, it is because they can be regarded as a sort of re 
hearsal for the recent infinitely more destructive and tragic civil war. 



Chapter V 
THE DICTATORSHIP 

The time has come for Spaniards to be governed in accordance with the spirit of their 
history and the feelings which make up their better character. 

NARVAEZ in 1867, inaugurating a severe 
repression that led to a revolution. 

The Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera came in on a wave of good wishes 
and optimism. It reached its highest point in 1926, after a run of 
three years, and then began to decline. By 1928 it was unpopular even 
in the Army and by January 1930 it had come to an end. 

The causes of its initial success and subsequent failure are mainly 
economic, for its period coincided with that of the world boom, of high 
prices and cheap money and expanding markets, and its premature 
decline was due to over-spending on public works and to the incom 
petent management of finances by a gifted but not very intelligent 
young man, Calvo Sotelo. There were other causes also: the Dictator 
ship came in with almost everyone's good wishes because it destroyed 
the old corrupt regime and because it was thought to be a temporary 
phase that would end in the summoning of a Constituent Cortes. 
Primo again and again asserted this. When it was seen that his 
promises would not be fulfilled opinion began to change, whilst the 
increasing interferences with liberty, the lack of any kind of law but 
the Dictator's word and the miserable expedients of espionage and 
repression into which he was drawn lost him the support of one group 
of Spaniards after another. The severe censorship was especially 
damaging to him : the last few years had seen a great advance in the 
culture and confidence in their own powers of the elite of the Spanish 
middle classes and it was scarcely to be expected that this movement 
could be suppressed indefinitely. 

Primo s s own personality was not an unattractive one. He was 
an Andalusian landowner from Jerez: the province where a hard- 
drinking, whoring, horse-loving aristocracy rules over the most 
starved and down-trodden race of agricultural labourers in Europe. 
It is a region where the hatred of the poor for the rich has been 
accumulating for generations. But Primo evidently did not share the 
feelings of his set. All his actions show a desire to remedy the con 
dition of the poor within the rather narrow framework of what was 



THE DICTATORSHIP 79 

possible to him. As a general too he was something of a pacifist. He 
stood out against the strong feeling in the Army for a revanche in 
Morocco and began a withdrawal of the troops to the fortresses of the 
coast. And he was humane; although his six years of rule had their 
share of plots and risings, on only one occasion were there executions. 

Sefior Madariaga has well defined him as a glorified cafe politician, 
the genius of his species, aspiring like all cafe politicians to save his 
country by making himself its ruler. His model was not Mussolini but 
Haroun al Raschid. He issued decrees right and left, broke them 
whenever he felt inclined, behaved as a complete anarchist. Like so 
many Andalusians he was a man of immense optimism and felt an 
unlimited confidence in himself because he was always sure of his own 
good intentions. At first his Robin Hood justice on the old politicians 
and caciques (he liked to make the punishment fit the crime) was 
thought amusing, but people soon began to get tired of this and to 
wish for a return to law and order. Then, as soon as things ceased to 
go well, his garrulous decrees and his fussiness made him ridiculous. 1 
Spaniards do not like a ruler who is undignified and as his health 
declined poor Primo lost what dignity he had ever possessed. 

As regards his intelligence, one may say that he was a man of good 
natural parts but of little instruction. He had had no preparation 
whatever for government. He despised intellectuals and specialists, 
hated politics and held a host of superficial ideas on every subject. As 
he was very impulsive in putting his ideas into practice, decrees 
published one day had often to be revoked the next. His ignorance of 
economics gave rise to a number of anecdotes: on one occasion his 
finance minister had adopted the device of producing two simul 
taneous budgets one ordinary and the other extraordinary: on the 
second figured the huge expenditure on public works and upon the 
Seville and Barcelona Exhibitions which was labelled 'reproductive 
after a long period 5 . As a result of this the deficit usual in Spanish 
budgets disappeared. Primo was so delighted by this feat of wizardry 
that he announced that to celebrate it he would redeem all the mat 
tresses which the poor had pawned in the State pawnshops. 

His personal habits were as undisciplined and as bohemian as his 
mind. Though he worked long hours, these hours were very irregular. 

1 Prime's loquacity had always been famous. As a young general he once talked 
for two hours over the grave of a sentry who had been accidentally killed in Tetuan; 
Ciges Aparicio, op. cit. 'He is simply a parrot', said Unamuno. 'One always knows 
what he is going to say beforehand.' Some of his more preposterous decrees were 
written when he was drunk. 



80 THE DICTATORSHIP 

He sat up talking every night in clubs or cafes till three or four in the 
morning, slept till eight or nine and then took a siesta after lunch 
putting on a cotton night dress and nightcap and going to bed in the 
old Spanish style till five. His only form of exercise was riding, but 
every now and then he would have a goodjuerga or drinking bout. He 
and a few friends (including women) would shut themselves up in a 
country house, disconnect the telephone and let themselves go for a 
couple of days. Then he would return to work with renewed energies. 
But his most troublesome vice was over-eating. As a diabetic he was 
supposed to eat sparingly, but he was always forgetting this and then 
his temperature would rise. The doctor would come and put him on a 
strict diet, but this was more than he could stand and in the middle of 
the night he would get up, steal down to the kitchen and finish the 
remains of his servants' supper. Next morning his temperature would 
have risen again. His last days in Paris, days of physical prostration 
and of bitterness, were passed between the church and the brothel. 

Primo was really an anachronism in the Spain of his time. His 
simplicity, his bonhomie, his disorderly habits belong to the period 
before 1874, when the rich and the poor had not yet begun to drift 
apart. He had none of the senorito airs of so many of the landowners 
of to-day. He wore the cheapest clothes, preferably mufti, and when 
he grew fat, instead of ordering new ones, he had the old ones let out. 
His biographer has recorded the sort of horror with which he fingered 
a silk shirt. Never, he declared, had he worn such a thing in his life. 
There are many small Spanish landowners who live in this way to-day, 
but Primo, a man of good family, the favourite nephew of a captain- 
general, had always occupied a privileged position. His greatness 
for he had a kind of greatness came from his being a typical Anda- 
lusian, drawn larger than life. 

The most successful of the achievements of the Dictatorship was 
the pacification of Morocco. Millions of money and thousands of lives 
had been sunk in that country to no advantage. Abd-el-Krim was 
increasing in strength every day and the Spanish troops were un 
disciplined and unreliable. Primo decided to cut his losses and effect 
an immediate withdrawal to the fortresses on the coast, and for that 
purpose assumed both the military and the civil command in Morocco 
himself. The withdrawal took place at the end of 1924, at a cost of 
16,000 casualties, in great disorder. But in May Abd-el-Krim made 
the fatal mistake of attacking the French and plans for a joint offensive 
by France and Spain were drawn up that summer. In September, 



THE DICTATORSHIP 8l 

whilst the French, advancing from Fez, drew the main body of the 
Riffian forces, the Spaniards landed 8000 men at Alhucemas Bay in 
the face of opposition. It was a hazardous attempt, for though there 
was only a weak force to oppose it, the Spanish troops were demora 
lized and there was a long tradition of failure for exploits of this kind 
in the Spanish Army. Everything depended too upon the prevailing 
wind, the levante, not blowing. But Primo asserted it would not blow 
and his luck held good. The landing was successful. Abd-el-Krim's 
capital, Axdir, was taken a few weeks later and the whole Riff was 
overrun and pacified. The Moroccan War, which from 1911 to 1929 , 
had cost ^i6o,ooo,ooo, 1 was at last over, though one may add that 
at any time during the past few years a division of good infantry 
equipped with bombing aeroplanes and tanks could easily have settled 
it. As a result of this victory the military dictatorship was suppressed 
and with the approval of the King a civil dictatorship set up in its 
place. The change of name was the only difference. 

Another success of Prime's regime was the relations which he 
established with labour. Since the general strike of 1917 governments 
had begun to pay more attention to labour conditions. Industrial 
tribunals had been introduced in 1918, the eight-hour day established 
in 1919 and a ministry of labour set up in I92O. 2 Primo amplified 
and invigorated all this legislation, establishing to the disgust of 
landlords and employers compulsory arbitration boards (comites 
paritarios) at which wages were adjusted. The workmen gained 
considerably by them. He also allied himself with the Socialists. He 
sent for Largo Caballero, the secretary of the Socialist trade union, 
the U.G.T., and invited him to collaborate in the regime. The 
Socialists were the only political party he would tolerate : he admired 
their discipline and their sincerity and hoped by their means to wean 
the working classes from the impossible Anarcho-Syndicalists. It was 
a sensible policy and had Primo been able to carry it further by 
breaking up the large estates, which were the fomenters and main- 
tainers of rural anarchism, the history of Spain might have been 
different. But his dependence upon the Army and upon the landlords 
made this, even had he desired it, impossible and, since agriculture 

1 See El Debate, May 1929. The League of Nations Armament Year Book gives 
approximately the same figure. 

2 Yet in 1928 there were still 24 per cent of full-time employees who worked 
between 54 and 60 hours a week. Such is the gulf between law and fact in Spain ! 
This percentage was higher than in any other country in Europe. See ' Hours of 
Work' in the Encyclopaedia of Social Service. 

6 



82 THE DICTATORSHIP 

was booming and land values were rising, the cost of expropriation 
would have been excessive. 

With this policy went a lavish public works scheme which almost 
did away with unemployment. The roads built by previous Govern 
ments were surfaced and made fit for motor cars. 1 Other roads were 
built, electricity and irrigation schemes were inaugurated. An ad 
mirable system of State hotels was set up in out of the way regions to 
encourage tourists. Ancient monuments were restored. The Seville 
and Barcelona Exhibitions were opened on a scale quite out of pro 
portion to the wealth of the country. This excessive expenditure 
produced a false sense of prosperity, caused the public debt to rise 
from 15,000 to 20,000 millions of pesetas and led to the economic 
crisis of 1929, when the peseta fell from 33 to the to 47. This was 
a level it had not reached for half a century. 2 

Had Primo retired in 1925, after the successful termination of the 
Moroccan War, he would have gone down to history as one of the 
saviours of Spain. But in fact his rule rested upon an absolute con 
tradiction. Spain needed radical reforms and he could only govern by 
permission of the two most reactionary forces in the country the 
Army and the Church. He had come in with the consent of, but not 
as the representative of, the Army to cover up the responsibilities of 
the King. His dependence upon it prevented a solution of the agrarian 

1 This is not the only time when Spain has had 'the best roads in Europe '. In the 
third quarter of the eighteenth century Charles Ill's minister Floridablanca built 
roads and post-houses on a scale that was not to be seen anywhere else. English 
travellers such as Townsend and a few years later Southey were astonished by 
them. But before these new roads with their embankments, cuttings and stone 
bridges could be carried very far, the money ran out. 

2 Another aspect of this tremendous expenditure was the graft which often 
accompanied it. Primo had come in to purify the Government, but the policy of 
granting monopolies in one commodity after another led to a great deal of corruption. 
Madrid became full of adventurers. The most famous of these was the millionaire 
Juan March, who had made a fortune during the war by supplying German sub 
marines. There was also a scandal over the construction of the Santander Railway in 
which certain members of the Royal Family were involved. See Solidaridad Obrera 
by Canovas Cervantes and The Civil War in Spain by Frank Jellinek, 1938. 

This graft, however, may be regarded as an indication of a change that was taking 
place in Spanish industry. During these five years Spanish and especially Catalan 
industry was passing from a stage of small concerns competing together anarchically 
to larger concentrations of capital cartels and monopolies. The reorganization of 
the hydro-electric industry in one trust known as the Chade, linked to immense 
German and American interests and under the presidency of Camb6, is one example 
of this process. Another, which was much criticized, was the handing over of the 
state-owned telephones to an American company. As a result of these operations the 
cost of telephoning and of electric light to the ordinary consumer rose by approxi 
mately 50 and 30 per cent respectively. 



THE DICTATORSHIP 83 

question and made him the oppressor of Catalan liberties: his relation 
to the King made it impossible for him to return to legality by 
summoning a Constituent Cortes. The hostility of the Liberals and 
intellectuals which this brought him threw him into the arms of their 
enemy the Church. His repression of Catalan aspirations was par 
ticularly severe. Primo had come in with the connivance of many 
elements of the Lliga, who had been terrified by the anarchist dis 
turbances in Barcelona. 1 This did not prevent him from dissolving 
the Mancomunidad, the very mild form of local government granted 
in 1912, and curtailing even the most elementary liberties of the 
Catalans. Their language was forbidden in schools and in public 
assemblies as well as in official notices or announcements of any sort. 
Their flag could not be flown. Even their national dance, the sardana^ 
was prohibited, and with childish virulence the name plates of the 
Barcelona streets, which were written both in Catalan and in Spanish, 
were cut in two. One effect of this was to ruin the Lliga and to pre 
pare the way for the victory of the Left-wing parties. More than 
anything else it was the overwhelmingly Republican vote of the 
Catalans in 1931 that brought the Monarchy to an end. 

Primo was further driven by the necessity for a severe censorship, 
by the whole nature of his dictatorship to quarrel with the intel 
lectuals, who, in a country where so few are well educated and where, 
owing to the feeble economic structure, ideas have always been very 
important, carry a great deal more weight than they do in England. 
This threw him more and more into the arms of the Church. The 
Church is such an extreme body in Spain that no government that is 
too closely dependent upon it can hope to govern the country. This 
soon became apparent. His project for allowing the Jesuit and Augus- 
tinian colleges to grant degrees raised an uproar in the universities, 
which, followed as it was by his hasty retraction, did a great deal to 
bring him down. 

The Dictatorship had meanwhile failed to secure the active support 

1 In August 1923 Puig y Cadafalch, President of the Mancomunidad, and other 
leading members of the Lliga offered their support to Primo in his coup d'etat in 
exchange for his promise to grant a measure of autonomy to Catalonia. But the 
feeling in the Army prevented this promise from being realized. A week after Primo 
came into power, he published regulations against those very Catalan Nationalists 
who, trusting to his often expressed regionalist sympathies, had helped him in. The 
setting up of mixed labour commissions to determine hours and wages was another 
blow to the employers on the Lliga, who disliked State mediation in industrial dis 
putes as strongly as did the Anarchists. On the other hand the upper bourgeoisie 
gained financially under Prime's rule by the development of Catalan finance and 
industry. 



04 THE DICTATORSHIP 

of the middle classes. Spain is not a country where patriotic feelings 
are easily placed at the service of a government: Spaniards can rise in 
fury against an invader because he is there and interferes with their 
lives and they can cling frantically to an idea, but active support for a 
regime is scarcely within their capacity. The Union Patriotica, which 
was founded in feeble imitation of the Italian Fascist party, was a 
failure: only doubtful characters went into it. The middle classes, 
sluggish, inert and pessimistic, stood aside. The sindicatos libres or 
patriotic trade unions organized by the Dictator (a development of the 
unions set up in 1919 by the Catalan employers) proved also to be a 
mushroom growth and gave no support worth having. So, as a space 
opened round him, Primo was driven more and more to repressive 
measures and to such un-Spanish devices as spying on the conversa 
tion of respectable people and opening private letters, and as his 
popularity waned even those people whose interests he represented, 
the Army and the King, began to plot against him. The last two years 
were a corrida in which students, ex-politicians, Liberal journalists, 
generals anyone who wanted to figure in the lime-light took up his 
banderillas and challenged the Dictator, while an apathetic crowd 
looked on. It was a typically Spanish denouement. No race is so given 
to hero-worship: no race so quick to pull the unsuccessful hero down. 
And in Spain no one can be successful nor keep himself above the 
crowd for long. 

From Primo's dictatorship one can, I think, draw three conclu 
sions. No government which has to depend on Church, Army and 
landlords can secure more than a temporary support in Spain. No 
government which represents a purely material well-being at the cost 
of liberty can satisfy Spaniards. And in a country where half the 
population sits in cafes and criticizes the Government no dictator can 
prosper for long. Primo de Rivera came in with every possible ad 
vantage and had all possible luck, but after three years of successful 
rule it was only a question of how much longer he would last. 

Primo went to Paris and died and his place was taken by another 
general, Berenguer, with the mission of 'bringing back the waters to 
the river bed' in other words saving the King. But the ease with 
which the Dictator had been brought down encouraged the Liberal 
middle classes who had done it to think that Alfonso could be got rid 
of too. He had practically no supporters. He had alienated almost 
every politician in the country, and even Conservative leaders such as 
Sanchez Guerra, a lifelong royalist, would have nothing to do with 



THE DICTATORSHIP 85 

him. The fact that the Dictatorship had come In to cover up his per 
sonal responsibility for the disaster in Morocco was fatal to him. It 
was therefore with little hope of success that he began his fifteen 
months' fight for the throne. And he made mistakes. His worst 
mistake was in executing two officers, Captains Galan and Garcia 
Hernandez, who had risen for a republic in Jaca. 1 Military risings 
have so long been a part of the political game in Spain that if they fail 
without causing much loss of life public opinion is opposed to death 
sentences. A weak or failing government incurs odium by carrying 
them out. This had been the mistake which, in 1843, had brought 
down Espartero, and Isabella had lost her popularity in 1866 for the 
same reason. Indeed, Spanish opinion has always been strangely 
sensitive to executions in time of peace, whatever the crime may have 
been, and in 1911 a Monarchist paper El Mundo gravely censured the 
King for being at Cowes Regatta * amusing himself, whilst one of his 
subjects lay under sentence of death'. 2 

One by one Alfonso tried various expedients for returning, without 
the risk of elections, to normal constitutional government, but could 
not obtain the necessary promises of support from political leaders. 
In the end, after infinite hesitations, it was decided to hold municipal 
elections to see which way the wind was blowing. To the surprise of 
everyone, not least to that of the parties of the Left (for municipal 
elections are more easily manipulated than parliamentary ones and the 
Socialists had at first decided to abstain from voting) they showed an 
avalanche. Every provincial capital in Spain except four voted Repub 
lican. In Madrid and in Barcelona the vote was overwhelming. The 
middle classes as a body had deserted Alfonso. The fact that the 
country districts, outnumbering the towns, voted royalist was of no 

1 A court martial found them guilty and imposed the death penalty. The Govern 
ment was divided as to whether or not the sentence should be carried out. But the 
King insisted and the same afternoon (Sunday, 14 December) they were taken out 
and shot. This hurried execution on a Sunday afternoon of two young officers did 
more to turn opinion against the Rey Caballero than anything else he could have 
done. 

2 See Fernandez Almagro, op. cit. When shortly after this the King pardoned E 
Chato de Cuqueta, an anarchist who had risen at Valencia, he became more popular 
than he had ever been before or since. 

Spaniards have always hated cruelty or severity in their governments. The Spanish 
governments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were far more lenient 
towards political or social misdemeanours than the French or English. And even in 
the nineteenth century, when risings occurred every year or two, It became the rule 
that any government which shed blood in Madrid had to resign. Why not, when, as 
an Italian historian has said, the Spanish idea of fair play is to allow everyone a little 
revolutionary activity against the people in power? 



86 THE DICTATORSHIP 

Importance: their votes were largely controlled by the caciques or else 
they were politically indifferent, and in any case no king or dictator 
could hope to hold Spain if the towns were against him. 1 The Army 
and the Civil Guard, commanded by General Sanjurjo, withdrew 
their support. Even the grandees kept silent: they were afraid that if 
the King did not go there might be a 'red revolution'. But only when 
every possible resource had been exhausted, when it was clear that not 
a general would draw his sword for him, did the King leave. 2 

Thus ended the Monarchy. In the words of Nicolo Pascazio, an 
Italian journalist who has given a vivid account of its fall, it was 
'simply a vested interest consisting of clergy, military and aristocracy 

at the expense of everyone else It had no support among the 

middle classes.' For the famous fidelity of the Spaniards to their kings 
had been broken long before. Of the immediate predecessors of 
Alfonso XIII, four, including a Queen Regent, had been compelled to 
abdicate, one (Ferdinand VII) had only been kept on his throne by 
French arms and one (Alfonso XII) had died young. Since 1789 not 
a single Spanish sovereign had had a natural reign. 

1 In many towns over 90 per cent of the electorate voted : the average in previous 
elections had been 40 per cent. Of the 50 provincial capitals, 46 voted for a Republic. 

2 It is often asserted in this country that the King withdrew to avoid plunging the 
country into a civil war. The fact is that his withdrawal became inevitable from the 
moment that Sanjurjo, the Commander of the Civil Guard, who happened also to 
be the most influential general in Spain, refused him his support. A useful martyr 
once he had left, whilst he was still in Spain hardly anyone wished to keep him. This 
is ^not a question on which any doubt is possible. How lukewarm was even the 
aristocracy may be seen from the appeal of the Duke of Almenara Alta, President of 
the Nobles' Club, to the upper classes of society to increase their pro-Monarchic 
campaign in the coming municipal elections. The grandees of Spain, he declared, 
had ' the^firm intention of serving the King to the point, if need be, of sacrifice.' 

See Nicolo Pascazio, La Rivoluzione di Spagna, for an entertaining description of 
their attitude and of their wholesale flight from the country when the Republic 
came in. Pascazio's caustic accounts of the behaviour of the Spanish upper classes 
are all the more telling for his being himself an Italian Fascist, who had no sym 
pathies or contacts with the parties of the Left. 



Part II 

THE CONDITION OF THE 
WORKING CLASSES 

Everything was rotten in Spain except the hearts of the 
poorer people. NAPIER, History of the Peninsular War. 



Chapter VI 
THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

It is a duty of humanity for us to open to all men the riches which God gave in 
common to all, since to all he gave the earth as a patrimony, so that all without dis 
tinction might live by its fruits. Only unbridled greed could claim for itself this gift 
of heaven, appropriating as its own the foods and riches which were intended to be 

the property of all God wishes then, and it is laid down by his laws, that now that 

human nature, corrupted as it is, has proceeded to a partition of common goods, they 
should not be monopolized by a few, and that a part should always be set aside for 
the consolation of the people's infirmities. ... In a Republic in which some are over 
stuffed with riches and others lack the very necessities, neither peace nor happiness 
is possible. FATHER JUAN DE MARIANA, De Rege et Regis Institutions, 1599. 

Before commencing on the history of the Republic it will be necessary 
to stop and give some account of the position of the peasants and 
working classes in Spain at this time. I shall begin with a discussion 
of what is really the fundamental problem in Spain the agrarian 
question and its relation to industry, and shall then in succeeding 
chapters trace the history of the two great working-class movements, 
the Anarcho- Syndicalists and the Socialists, who between them com 
prise the great majority of the workers in the country. Finally, I will 
give a brief account of the Carlists, who if not exactly a working-class 
movement, are to a certain extent an agrarian one. 

The first thing to notice is that Spain is one of those countries with 
an undeveloped, primitive economy which is divided by a fairly defi 
nite line into two sections. Above are the upper and middle classes, 
say one-fifth of the population, who vote, read newspapers, compete 
for Government jobs and generally manage the affairs of the nation. 
Beneath are the peasants and workmen, who in ordinary times take no 
interest in politics, frequently do not know how to read and keep 



88 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

strictly to their own affairs. Between these two completely different 
worlds there is a gulf, imperfectly filled by the small shop-keepers and 
artisans. 

These two classes lived side by side in towns and villages, but 
without any very close contacts. The lack of education and the back 
wardness and inertness of the economic structure prevented any 
upward movement from one to the other. In England and France, 
for example, it has for a long time been common for men to rise from 
the humblest rank to the class above them. In Spain this has rarely 
happened. The workman who put by money, the peasant who added 
to his holding, the artisan who went into business became the excep 
tion as soon as one crossed the Pyrenees and scarcely existed at all in 
the south. The few one could point to as having 'bettered themselves' 
had generally made their money in America. And this had one effect 
which every traveller to Spain during the last hundred and fifty years 
has admired. The working classes showed no desire to imitate the 
customs or ways of thought of their social superiors. They had the 
independence of mind to prefer their own. For if they had been im 
poverished by the loss of their common lands in the nineteenth 
century, they had at least not been crushed and uprooted as the 
English poor had been nor demoralized by parish relief. They had 
been left very much to themselves in the large villages or towns where 
most Spanish peasants live and here they had maintained the tradi 
tional ways of life that had come down to them from their ancestors. 
This gave them a solidarity with their own class that had no parallel 
in England or France. And, as I have said, the industrial revolution 
that in the long run came to the help of the English poor, matured 
very slowly in Spain, so that opportunities for improving their lot did 
not as a rule exist for them. Thus, except in a few of the larger towns, 
society remained sharply divided into two classes the large class of 
those who worked with their hands and the small class of those who 
did not. 

It is easy to see therefore why Spanish politics of the last two 
hundred years give such an impression of inconsequence and futility. 
The people took no part in them. If they voted it was for fear of 
losing their jobs or to earn the peseta or two offered them by the 
cacique. So convinced were they that the Government and its laws 
were no concern of theirs and that politicians existed only in order to 
feather their own nests, that they regularly turned their backs on all 
suggestions held out by Republican candidates for the amelioration of 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 89 

their condition. And yet one would be wrong to regard this huge 
silent mass as necessarily inert and inexpressive. The Spanish pueblo 
has a totally different character to any other body of peasants and 
labourers in Europe. At regular intervals in the course of its history, 
whenever it has considered its deepest interests to be threatened, it has 
risen and carried everything before it. It was the people who, by 
tumults and massacres all over Spain, insisted on the forcible con 
version of the Jews in the fifteenth century: it was they who expelled 
the Moriscos in the sixteenth century against the wishes of the large 
landowners and, a century later, drove out the Austrian Archduke and 
his English allies in the War of the Spanish Succession. Again, it was 
the people and not the nobility or the middle classes, who fought with 
such fury against Napoleon. In all these cases they rose, not so much 
to satisfy any material claims of their own as on the leading and at the 
instigation of the Church (and especially of the monks and village 
priests) in defence of certain ideals, and as soon as their object had 
been attained they returned to their former apathy. 1 In the twentieth 
century there were other risings which, except in the case of the Carlist 
Rebellion, were not led by the Church but these were half-hearted 
affairs, owing no doubt to the fact that in their new orientation they 
were still weak and uncertain of themselves. 

However there is one thing to be noted about all these popular 
movements, and that is that in each case the object they had in view 
was not a positive redressing of their grievances, but simply the 
expulsion of a foreign body which provoked and irritated them. Once 
the Jews and the Moors, then the Austrians and the French, we have 
recently seen them turn with the same destructive fury upon the land 
lords and the priests who had exhausted their patience. In all these 
cases one may observe the same process: the sudden spontaneous 
rising against the enemy in their midst and, when his destruction or 
expulsion has been achieved, the rapid subsidence. It would almost 
seem as though the long history of the 'purification' of Spain had 
given Spaniards the feeling that, to live as they wished, they needed 
only to get rid of someone. 

And, again one may note, whenever they rose they proved irresis 
tible. Spain then acted as a whole, and not from the surface only. 
Even the upper classes admitted this. The pueblo was recognized by 
them as being the great repository of the virtues of the race, the 
source from which everything that was sane and healthy in the country 

1 See Note A on p. 126 at end of chapter. 



90 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

sprang. No act in which it did not take part had its roots in the 
national life. Even when it was too late, even after it had abandoned 
them, they continued to appeal to it, searching for the 'true pueblo', 
the pueblo that was still 'faithful to its ideals' and which had not been 
'corrupted by foreign gold', with the same pathetic fervour with 
which orthodox Marxists search to-day for the pure proletariat. For 
they suffered, these Spanish middle classes, from a deadening sense of 
inferiority, of superficiality, of lack of substance. They had lost faith 
in themselves and in their religion. Under their air of self-confidence 
they felt themselves cut off from the true sources of life in their 
country and dwindling every day. No wonder then that the more 
sensitive of them were inclined to attribute to this pueblo which 
seemed for all its ignorance to be so much stronger and healthier than 
they were (strong and healthy enough perhaps to end by devouring 
them) a kind of mystic force such as the Russian Slavophils had 
attributed to their peasantry in the last decades before the Revolution. 
Certainly they had far better historical reasons for doing so. 

The process therefore that we shall trace during the following 
chapters is the gradual transfer of the allegiance of the peasants and 
workers from the Church to revolutionary ideologies hostile to it. The 
effect of these new social theories was to make the workers regard the 
landlords and the factory owners very much as in the past they had 
regarded the Jews and the Moors that is, as foreigners who inter 
fered with them and prevented their free development. Such an 
obvious view scarcely required any novel arguments to sustain it, 
seeing how gross and unmitigated had been the parasitism of the 
Spanish upper classes. But Spaniards long ago formed the habit of 
fighting for ideas. For a thousand years Spanish history has been the 
history of a crusade, punctuated by intervals of indifference and 
torpor. An ideology was therefore needed to rouse the workers and to 
lead them to victory. In Socialism and perhaps even more in Anar 
chism they found what they needed. 

The first thing to get clear is that though Spain is predominantly an 
agricultural and stock-breeding country (there are 4$ millions of 
workers on the land compared to only 2 millions in industry) the 
value of the greater part of this land is very low. The fact that certain 
small irrigated regions scattered round the edges of the Peninsula 
contain the most productive land in Europe must not make one forget 
that a large part of the centre consists of heath, thin steppe pasture or 
desert. The area of cultivated land in Spain in 1928 was between 50 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 91 

and 60 million acres : that of pasture and underwood was somewhat 
larger, whilst 15 million acres were totally unproductive. Of the 
pasture land more than one half was extremely poor incapable, that 
is, of maintaining more than two sheep per acre. 1 

To understand the reason for this we must consider the physical 
conditions of the Peninsula. The core of Spain is a tableland of ancient 
rocks whose average altitude is over 2000 feet above sea level. This 
high tableland is parched with heat in summer and swept by icy winds 
in winter. Much of it is nearly soil-less, and granites and primary 
rocks lie close to the surface. The northern boundary of this region, 
formed by the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Range, is a wild moun 
tainous district resembling Switzerland and ending in the broken 
granite region of Galicia where heaths and small patches of cultivated 
land alternate as in Brittany or Ireland. The Guadalquivir Valley on 
the south consists of rolling country with a good soil, but with in 
sufficient rainfall to counteract the high evaporation. On the east 
coast there is excellent soil, composed of rniocene formations originally 
washed down from the central tableland and deposited in shallow 
lakes, but here the rainfall is so slight that, except where there is 
irrigation, the land can scarcely be used at all. 

Rainfall is thus the critical factor in Spain. The sketch map on p. 333 
will give an idea of its distribution. It varies from 60 or even 80 inches 
in Galicia to less than 10 near Teruel or along the east coast, whilst in 
some parts of the provinces of Murcia and Almeria there is often no 
rain at all for several years on end. That is to say, drought is the 
prevailing weather type through most of the country and is so dis 
tributed that it is the worst soil that gets the greatest rainfall, whilst 
the best is rainless. 

It is obvious that these varying physical conditions must give rise to 
very different agrarian systems. And that is in fact the case. The 
sketch map on p. 334 will show how closely the area of small holdings 
and long-term leases coincides with that of sufficient rainfall, whilst 
the area of large estates and short-term leases coincides with drought. 
The small man cannot live without difficulty in a dry area, because he 
is not able to stand the seasonal variation of the crops. There exist 
therefore two main agrarian problems in Spain: that of the small 
holdings in the centre and north, which are sometimes too exiguous to 

1 See Madariaga, Spain. A. Marvaud (L'Espagne au XXieme Siede, p. 294) gives 
42 million acres as the area of cultivated land in 1903-1907 and 64 million acres for 
pasture and underwood. 



92 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

maintain the men who work on them, and that of the large estates in 
the south, which are run on a factory system that keeps down wages to 
starvation point by means of huge reserves of unemployed labour. A 
third problem is that of the leases. 

GALICIA 

Let us examine first the question of the small holdings. The 
classic example is Galicia. In the Middle Ages most of the land 
in Galicia belonged to the Church. They let it out on a special 
type of lease known as the foro, which was a form of hereditary 
emphyteusis. The tenant paid a quit-rent, usually about 2 per cent of 
the capital value of his holding, and kept his house and farm buildings 
in repair, but could not be ejected. This was a form of tenure that 
came into use over the greater part of Central Spain in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries and is known in Castile as the censo. The 
foro differed from the censo in being limited to a definite period 
usually por tres voces y veinte nueve anos mas that is, f for three lives 
(either of tenants or kings) and twenty-nine years more 5 . This limita 
tion seems to be connected with the fact that it was introduced by 
Cistercian and Premonstratensian monks in the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries as an inducement to free peasants and serfs to settle on the 
moors and waste lands, and not, as was the case with the censo, during 
the conversion of feudal tenures to a system of yearly rentals. That 
is to say, whilst offering favourable terms to settlers, the Church 
wished to retain some control of its property. Galicia, with its holy 
city of Santiago de Compostella, and Catalonia, which bordered on 
Languedoc, were naturally more subject than other parts of Spain to 
the new ecclesiastical influences coming from France. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the population of 
Galicia began to increase rapidly and land values went up. The 
tenants, who leased their land from the Church and from the nobility, 
began to find it profitable to subdivide their holdings and re-let them 
at a greatly increased rental in some cases for ten or twenty times 
more than they themselves paid. Thus a new class of land profiteers 
grew up, and under them a new class of tenants, the subforados. The 
Church and the nobles then attempted to put into practice the clause 
which limited the leases to a definite period, but which had gradually 
fallen into desuetude. Thtforeros resisted and a dispute began which 
lasted in the law courts and in the royal councils for a hundred and 
thirty years (from 1629 to 1759) without any ruling being arrived at. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 93 

In 1763 an order in council suspended the whole question, which 
meant that theforeros had won. However, the entire civil and criminal 
jurisdiction of the lands still belonged to the Church and the nobility, 
so that when the Cortes met at Cadiz in 1810 the middle- class foreros 
ranged themselves on the Liberal side. Then, after the Carlist War, 
the Church lands were sold and most of thtforos were bought up by 
the foreros, who thus became themselves the legal owners of the land 
or foristas. The foro question then resolved itself into a struggle 
between these new foristas, who were generally lawyers and lived in 
the towns, and the people who actually worked the land, the subforados 
or foreros. 

To see how this question affected local politics, one must under 
stand how the land is worked. The climate of Galicia is moist like that 
of Ireland, which in so many respects It resembles, but the soil is poor 
and more suited for grazing than for cereals. The pressure on the land, 
however, does not allow the soil to be worked in the most productive 
way. The country is dotted over with little farms each containing just 
enough land to support one family. The type of rural economy of 
each of these homesteads is necessarily therefore one of strict self- 
sufficiency. Each family has its own cow, which does the ploughing 
and provides a little cheese and milk; it grows its own rye or maize, 
out of which it makes its bread, ferments its own wine and even in 
some districts makes its own cloth. Each family eats what it grows 
there are no export crops. The only means by which a little money can 
be raised to pay the taxes is by selling a calf every year or by going off 
to other parts of Spain to work at the harvest. All this might be well 
enough if the closing of the old outlet of emigration to America had 
not increased the already excessive subdivision of the land and led to 
a great many families living in a condition of semi-starvation. 

It was in these circumstances that the Galician peasant was asked to 
pay a foro for the land on which he lived and which, since he could 
not be turned out of it, he considered that he owned. The foro was 
collected by agents and was paid to people whom, as a rule, he had 
never seen and who had no rights whatever over his property. For 
this reason, like the collection of tithe in England, it was felt as an 
injustice. And it had other evils attached to it. Although the land 
was very subdivided, the /bras were not, so that endless disputes and 
lawsuits occurred between the tenants in deciding the share that each 
had to pay. These disputes were fomented by the lawyers with the 
object of driving the peasants into debt. As both lawyers and money 
lenders belonged to the class of foristas, they soon got considerable 



94 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

numbers of the peasants into their hands and compelled them to vote 
for them at elections. So strong was the cacique system in Galicia that 
it survived even the coming of the Republic. 1 

Till recently the foros dominated every other political question 
in Galicia. As long ago as 1905 the foristas were finding it difficult 
to obtain payment because their agents were intimidated and the 
members of the tribunals that confirmed their claims were persecuted 
and sometimes even killed. At about this time th&foreros founded two 
very different organizations to defend their rights. One, Solidaridad 
Gallega, believed in redeeming the foros by paying some compensa 
tion: the other, the Union Campesina, which originated under Anar 
chist influences at Corunna, demanded their cancellation. The first, 
which one may call Republican and Liberal, believed only in political 
action: the second had a policy of boycotts and violence and turned 
its back on politics. One more example of the fact that wherever the 
cacique is found he promotes a-politicism and anarchism. But what 
makes this conflict unique in modern Spanish history was the attitude 
of the Church. Generally speaking, wherever the rural population in 
Spain is concentrated into large villages or towns, the clergy are upon 
the side of the middle classes and caciques against the people, whereas 
when the peasantry are dispersed in hamlets and small farms, the 
clergy associates itself with them. This was the case in Galicia. The 
rural clergy were fanatically anti-forista cases have even been known 
of their refusing the sacraments to foristas. Only the town clergy, 
sons of foristas and caciques, preached peace and submission. The 
result of this was that although, with the advent of the Republic, 
socialist doctrines spread among the peasants, the political situation 
in Galicia never came fully into line with that in the rest of Spain. 
Politics, veering round the question of the foros and confused by the 
double attitude of the Church, remained a local issue. 

There was also a regional movement based partly on the fact that 
the special interests of Galician agriculture were thought to be neg 
lected in Madrid. The duty on foreign maize prevented the develop 
ment of cattle breeding, which was the natural industry of the country 
and its one hope of emerging from its primitive economy. But in spite 
of the fact that the Galicians speak a language and have a culture of 
their own, it was not deeply rooted. So that, generally speaking, one 
may say that the remoteness of Galicia from the rest of Spain and 
from its social and political problems (a remoteness accentuated by an 
execrable railway system) has been its chief characteristic. 

1 Primo de Rivera decreed compulsory redemption of the foros in 1926. This 
was completed shortly before the Civil War. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 95 

ASTURIAS, THE BASQUE PROVINCES AND NAVARRE 

Moving to the east along the Cantabrian Mountains one comes 
first to Asturias, an Alpine region of small peasant farmers. Here 
conditions are somewhat better than in Galicia, because the family 
holdings are larger and because there still exist extensive communal 
pastures. The only exports are cattle and dairy produce. The foro is 
rare. One arrives then at the four Basque provinces, of which the 
most easterly, which has developed separately from the others, is 
Navarre. Beyond them lies the Pyrenean half of Aragon, extending to 
the borders of Catalonia. All this region has a simple type of rural 
economy that has come down more or less unchanged from early 
times and is not derived from the decay of feudal institutions. It is 
a country of small proprietors or tenant farmers, working on a family 
basis and possessing sufficient land to maintain themselves adequately. 
Contrary to the custom in most other parts of Spain they are not 
grouped in small towns or villages, but lie scattered in isolated farms 
and hamlets. As the rainfall is abundant and the soil adequate, they 
are fairly prosperous. 

Two forms of land tenure are in force here, according to whether 
the land is owned by the family that work it or rented by them from 
someone else. The first, common to the whole Pyrenean region, is the 
f family community system*, in which the property belongs to the 
family and the head of the family council chooses his successor among 
his sons or other relatives. The house, known as the lar or liar 
(derived from the Latin lar), with its orchard, fields and vineyards, is 
unalienable and descends from one generation to another. This 
system, which to-day is not so strict as it used to be, is the primitive 
form of land tenure that once prevailed through the whole of the 
mountainous region of Northern Spain. It can be traced back to the 
tenth century and may be much older. With it goes a strong sense of 
solidarity between neighbours, who are regarded as having certain 
duties towards one another which they must fulfil at the risk of being 
boycotted. In Navarre much of the land is held in this way and the 
result is the most conservative peasant society in Europe. 1 

1 Corresponding to the * family community' of the Pyrenees is the now moribund 
compania gallega of Galicia, in which a family society, occupying perhaps a whole 
hamlet, cultivates their land in common. This existed in Catalonia also, but has now 
almost died out there. The fact that neither foro nor censo ever took root in the 
Basque provinces, in Asturias or along the southern slopes of the Pyrenees is an 
indication of the cohesion of this rural society, isolated in its mountain valleys and 
cut off from all influence of the towns. The rentier living on an income derived from 
land, but dissociated from all care in its management, could not come into existence. 



96 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

Merging with these peasant proprietors are other peasants who rent 
their land. The form of lease most commonly used belongs to a type 
that was once general over a large part of Spain and is called aparceria 
a medias or share-cropping. The landowner provides the land, the 
tenant does the work and pays the taxes : the incidental expenses and 
the crop are shared. It is a system that requires, if it is to work 
properly, a good deal of confidence between labourer and owner, since 
both have to be in agreement as to the crops that are to be sown each 
year. It also works best in climates where the rainfall is fairly regular, 
for whereas the owner must always gain something, the labourer may 
not get sufficient to support him if the weather is unfavourable. 
In the Basque provinces, and indeed through all this mountainous 
country in the north, the aparceria system prevails, the contracts being 
often oral and descending from father to son as though it were the 
labourer's own property. In the three original Basque provinces, 
Vizcaya, Guipuzcoa, and Alava, most of the land is held in this way. 
The owner lives as a rule in the neighbouring small town or village 
and the relations between him and his tenant are invariably excellent. 
The terms are less onerous for the tenant than they are in Navarre or 
in Aragon indeed one may say that the aparceria system here has 
come to be less a lease than an association contract. The prosperity of 
the Basque provinces and the liberal and reasonable spirit which they 
have developed may no doubt be put down in part to the success they 
have had in this form of co-operation. 1 

To this system of small farms one must add the communal forests 
and grazing lands. Along the slopes of the Pyrenees, or wherever the 
mountains are high enough, they are abundant. As Arthur Young 
noticed in 1787, they contribute greatly to the prosperity of the 
peasant communities. 

The Basque provinces, Navarre and Upper Aragon cling then to a 
primitive rural economy, based on small farms handed down in the 
same family from generation to generation or rented on long leases 
which are in practice hereditary. They are enabled to do this by the 
fact of their regular rainfall and because the family community system 
has not permitted that extreme subdivision of the land which is seen 

1 Such at least is the opinion of Angel Marvaud, who speaks of their management 
of these share-cropping leases as the * admiration of economists' (La Question 
Sociale en Espagne, 1910). One may note that in many parts of North Italy the same 
lease, known as the mezzadria, has had a long and successful history, often sup 
planting the livello or emphyteutic tenure, which was general until the fourteenth 
century. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 97 

in Galicia. These are the satisfied areas of Spain the only ones, apart 
from a few irrigated districts of the south-east, where one can say that 
there is no social problem. They are also the most Catholic : in them 
the village priest still has immense influence with his flock and 
Catholic benefit associations protect the peasants against those three 
miseries of rural life sickness, failure of crops and money-lenders. 
Yet there are differences between them. The old Basque provinces do 
not produce the same type of Catholicism as Upper Aragon and Navarre. 
The Basques with their large industrial capital at Bilbao, their mer 
cantile marine and their active commercial relations with foreign 
countries, are the most European of all Iberian races. Their language 
is the only primitive thing about them. Though conservative in a 
political sense, their conservatism is that of an active commercial race 
such as the English, which believes in individual effort. Their Catholi 
cism, too, is modern; if one wishes to see monks who are not engrossed 
in political propaganda, well-educated clergy, unfanatical bishops, 
this is the part of Spain where one is most likely to find them. 

Navarre, on the other hand, though inhabited by a race that was 
once Basque-speaking, has had a very different history from its three 
sister provinces. The last region of Spain to come under the rule 
of the Catholic kings, it has always been the most faithful to the 
Monarchy. This is to be accounted for by its self-subsisting economy, 
based on small but relatively prosperous farms, owned for the most 
part by their proprietors, and by its remoteness from large centres of 
commerce. The very prosperity of the Navarrese and the success they 
have made of self-government have made them hate change, so that 
during the past hundred years they have been the chief upholders of 
that fanatically conservative and religious attitude that is known as 
Carlism and which is nothing else than the hostility of a sturdy race of 
mountaineers and farmers to industrial life. 

OLD CASTILE AND LEON 

The same can be said, though to a lesser extent, of the plains of Old 
Castile, around Burgos and Palencia as far south as Valladolid. These 
are mainly areas of small proprietors or tenant farmers, eking out a 
scanty but still fairly regular existence from the soil. Palencia, for 
example, has been a district of small holders from remote times : it was 
the capital of the Iberian tribe of Vacceos who divided up their lands 
yearly. 



98 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

At first sight it may seem surprising that this region of Spain should 
be so strongly Catholic. Scarcely anywhere do the peasants suffer 
more from short leases, land speculators and usurers. Rents are fixed 
in money, which means that they are not dependent on the size of the 
crop, so that every bad year leaves the peasant in debt. Such was the 
state of Old Castile in the seventeenth century, such again in the 
eighteenth century, and such it still is to-day. 1 But Castilians, who 
feel themselves the master race in Spain, have a long tradition of 
Conservatism. Their complaints, too, have never gone altogether 
unheard in Madrid. There has always been a section of the Conserva 
tive party which combined an insistence on low wages for agricultural 
labourers with a demand for easier credit for peasants. The interests 
of landowner .and small farmer were assimilated. Then the Church, 
when it found itself losing the adherence of agricultural workers in 
other parts of Spain, mustered its forces in an effort to retain the 
loyalty of the Castilians. Catholic agrarian associations and rural 
credit banks were started, schools for peasants' children were founded 
and a great deal of money poured out. On the whole this policy has 
been successful. The Old Castilian peasant of to-day looks on his 
fellow-workers in the east and south much as his ancestors looked on 
the Moors and infidels, and it is only when one enters an area of large 
estates that one finds the Casa del Pueblo competing with the priests 
and drawing the poorer of the labourers towards Socialism. This is 
especially the case to the south of Valladolid, where the rainfall de 
creases and the soil gets poorer, and when one travels west and 
north-west into Leon. 

ARAGON 

The old province of Aragon consists of a Pyrenean belt, where con 
ditions tend to resemble those in Navarre, the irrigated valley of the 
Ebro, where properties are small and the peasants relatively pros 
perous, and a large dry area with a very low rainfall, which includes 
the flat steppes of the Ebro Basin and a sparsely inhabited moun 
tainous region known as the Maestrazgo, running south to Teruel. 
Large estates, debt-ridden peasants and impoverished agricultural 
labourers characterize the steppe country, which has been strongly 
affected by the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement. The Maestrazgo, on 
the other hand, has Carlist traditions. It should be added that the 
physical appearance of the Aragonese is very different from that of 

1 See Note B on p. 126 at end of chapter. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 99 

either the Basques or the Catalans : they seem to be of a more primitive 
stock and through the whole of Spain they are famous for their 
obstinacy. 

CATALONIA 

The only remaining province of Northern Spain is Catalonia. Here 
agrarian conditions are good. The land is for the most part owned by 
small proprietors who let it out to the peasants, though there are also 
peasant owners. There are two main types of lease, one the hereditary 
emphyteusis or censo (which originally, like the/oro, had a time limit) 
and the other a special kind of aparceria or share-cropping contract 
which is employed for land used in the cultivation of vines. As vines 
are the most remunerative crop, this lease has given rise to a special 
class of peasants, the rabassaires, who rent their land under it. The 
peculiarity of this lease is that its duration is based on the life of the 
vines. The land reverts to the owner when three-quarters of the 
planted vines have died (rabassa morte) and he can then renew it or not 
as he thinks fit. Formerly the life of the vines averaged about fifty 
years, which assured the labourer a contract that would cover his 
working life and remunerate him for the six or eight years of fruitless 
labour that young vines require before they mature. But the phyl 
loxera plague in the nineties killed the old vines and led to the 
introduction of a new American plant which required more care and 
labour and lived only half as long. This grievance of the rabassaires 
led, as we shall see, to serious consequences in the third year of the 
Republic. 

Apart from this claim, which in any other country but Catalonia 
would be easily adjusted, the peasants are hard-working and pros 
perous. They have a large market to hand in Barcelona and a fair 
rainfall, and though the soil is poor, the intense industry of the 
Catalans (remarked by Young in 1787 they were the pioneers of 
small holdings in Spain) has made every yard productive. 1 

The regions whose agrarian features have so far been described 
that is, Galicia, Asturias, the Basque provinces, Aragon and Catalonia, 
all mountainous or heath-covered districts, with Old Castile and Leon 

1 * We saw, everywhere, signs of much industry ; and, amidst a poverty which hurt 
our feelings, we generally saw something to convince us, that it was not the fault of 
the poor people that greater exertions were not made* (Young's Travels, p. 318). 
Young's piercing eye detected at once the main scourge of Spanish agriculture the 
absentee landlord. On the large estates less than i per cent of the land was culti 
vated. Small holders only existed when they had been able to buy land from the 
Communes. 



100 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

adjoining them on the Central Plateau have (if we except a part of 
Aragon) two characteristics in common: a fair rainfall and Christian 
traditions that go back to the tenth century. Either they were never 
conquered by the Moslems or they were held by them for a compara 
tively brief period. They thus form the nucleus of an older Spain 
which, both geographically and culturally, has always been closer to 
Europe than to Africa. Their forms of land tenure and of local 
government reflect this. In the main, and in spite of certain later 
importations of feudalism, they derive their spirit and vigour from the 
days of the Spanish Mark, when the most urgent task of the kings and 
nobles was to repopulate the empty territories and when a peasant was 
often as much needed to fight as to plough. It is from then that one 
must date that love of local liberties and personal independence which 
have characterized Spaniards to this day. 

Among these forms of land tenure one which was very general, 
especially in the old frontier provinces of Castile and Leon, was the 
communal ownership of all the land in the village. Such communes, 
of course, have existed at various times in other parts of Europe, but 
what is remarkable is that in Spain they have not only persisted in 
isolated districts down to the present day, but that the communal or 
co-operative spirit has shown such vitality that on various occasions 
during the last four centuries, and more especially during the last 
twenty years, it has thrown out new and vigorous shoots. Since, how 
ever, these communes are no longer numerous enough to exert any 
general influence, but merely display certain tendencies that have been 
or are at work, I have relegated the discussion of them to the appendix. 

THE LEVANTE 

As one travels down the east coast the rainfall drops to 15 inches 
and makes the cultivation of cereals a precarious task. Sometimes 
there is no harvest for years in succession as the corn either cannot be 
sown or, if sown, does not come up. But Tortosa, Valencia and 
Murcia mark the sites of vegas or irrigated plains oases in the 
general sterility which show the highest level of agricultural produc 
tivity in Europe. From three to five crops can be grown on them in 
one year and a very small area is sufficient to support a family. (The 
average holding is about i| acres and 10 acres makes a rich man.) The 
vega of Valencia produces not only the oranges exported to England, 
but all the rice that is eaten in Spain. The land on it is worked by 
small farmers who, since the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1602, have 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 101 

rented their plots on leases called censos, granted at a fixed money rate. 
To-day they have most of them saved enough to buy them outright. 
As they are prosperous they vote either Republican (Valencia has a 
strong tradition of anti-clericalism) or Catholic- Conservative. Agri 
cultural wages are higher here than in any other part of the Peninsula. 
The famous anarchists of these provinces do not come from the 
irrigated zone, but from the dry rainless areas where the poverty and 
hunger are very severe. Most of the men in these regions emigrate to 
the large towns, leaving their families behind them, whilst the women 
employ their time in lace-making. 

Valencia is the seat of the remarkable Cort de la Seo or Water 
Tribunal, in which infractions of the complicated irrigation rules are 
judged and fines levied by a jury elected by the farmers of the district. 
The fines, though they cannot be enforced by law, are invariably paid. 
This tribunal, which has come down from the early Middle Ages, is 
simply one out of many proofs of the capacity for organization and 
discipline possessed by Spanish rural communities. Incidentally one 
should note that water rights here are attached to the land : in other 
places, such as Lorca and Murcia, they are separate from it a 
system which leads to great abuses. 

GRANADA 

The only remaining district that need be mentioned before going on 
to the question of the latifundia or large estates is the fertile irrigated 
plain of Granada. This, with the smaller vega of Murcia, is the only 
irrigated district in Spain which is not in the hands of small peasant 
proprietors. Considerable fortunes have been made here in recent 
years by the cultivation of sugar beet, and rents (from which taxes 
must be excluded: it is the tenant who pays them) are as high as 8 per 
cent on the capital value of the land. The result is that the social 
conflict has been more severe here than in any other agricultural dis 
trict in Spain, for the labourers and fanners are not the half-starved, 
down-trodden serfs of the Andalusian Basin, but well-educated and 
organized socialists, whilst the landowners (who here live on or close 
to their land) form a compact body belonging, like nearly all Spanish 
landowners, to the extreme Right. 

This concludes my survey of the agrarian conditions of the north 
and east. With the exception of Galicia, parts of Leon and Old Castile 
and the dry lands of the east, these may be described as the fortunate 
districts of Spanish life, where the conditions can be compared not 



IO2 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

too unfavourably with those In other parts of Europe. There remain 
the centre and the south, the area of short rents and large estates. 
This may be divided into the plateau region of New Castile and La 
Mancha, where the estates are usually of moderate size, and the lower, 
more fertile region of Andalusia, where the estates are often enormous 
reaching to 20,000 acres and in exceptional cases to 200,000 acres. 
Extremadura on the west forms a transitional region. But it will be 
impossible to understand the character of these two main regions, that 
together make up the core of Spain, without saying something of their 
agrarian antecedents. 

HISTORICAL RETROSPECT 

The history of Spain until the coming of the industrial age a 
generation or two ago can be explained as a contest between the rich 
agricultural districts of Andalusia and the Levante and the poor, 
semi-pastoral tableland of Castile. Andalusia was thickly populated 
and had a high level of civilization long before the Romans arrived and 
they made it one of the granaries of Italy. But with the decay of trade 
and agriculture during the latter years of the Empire, the importance 
of this province declined and the centre of gravity of the Peninsula 
began to move northwards. 

The battle of the lagoon of Janda reversed this situation. A Medi 
terranean power, with a natural talent for commerce and manufacture, 
regained the mastery of Spain and Andalusian civilization rose to a 
point it had never reached before. Great industrial centres arose in 
Cordova, Seville, Malaga and Almeria to provide the silk and cotton 
fabrics, the paper, lustre pottery and glass for which Western Europe, 
just emerging from the stagnation of the Dark Ages and full of the 
optimism of new eras, felt an inexhaustible appetite. Almeria with its 
humid climate became the Manchester of Europe with a population 
of 250,000 (to-day it has 54,000) and a highly developed factory 
system, whilst Seville and Cordova were among the richest and most 
civilized cities in the world. But this population could never have 
been supported If there had not at the same time been a great develop 
ment of agriculture. Under Persian and Nabathaean influences the 
land began to be intensely cultivated, whenever possible by a system 
of irrigation channels, and new plants such as sugar cane, rice, 
oranges, lemons and cotton were introduced. The large estates of 
Roman times gave way to small holdings and wealth was relatively 
well distributed. The decline came in the thirteenth century when the 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 103 

market for silk stuffs fell off because the cities of Northern Europe had 
set up factories of their own, and the political structure of the Moslems 
disintegrated. 1 The semi-pastoral Spaniards of the north were then 
able to conquer the greater part of Andalusia and of the Mediter 
ranean coast. 2 

The irrigation channels got filled in; the land was devastated by 
border wars; famines and epidemics further depopulated the country, 
till by the end of the seventeenth century immense tracts, indeed 
almost the whole of this once fertile land, had become a wilderness 
ranged over by herds of sheep and cattle, and many towns and 
villages (the despoblados) had ceased to exist at all. The only provinces 
in which the irrigation channels were kept up were Valencia and 
Murcia, which were held by Aragon and where exceptional fertility 
and proximity to the Mediterranean provided easy markets. And 
although to-day there is certainly more land under irrigation in Spain 
than there was in the twelfth century, the Guadalquivir Valley from 
Cordova to Seville the heart of the old Baetican province has 
never recovered. Castillo, ha hecho a Espana y Castilla la ha dese- 
chado : * Castile made Spain and Castile unmade it.' 3 

Why was this necessary? In the first place the nobles who, under 
Ferdinand III, had conquered Seville and were rewarded by his son 
with huge tracts of the best land in Andalusia, were, like their pre 
decessors of Visigothic and Celt-Iberian times, mainly the owners of 
flocks and herds. This at least was the only part of their patrimony 
which they exploited directly. Then the emigration of the better 
part of the Moslem population from their new lands made them 
dependent upon slave labour. The decline of the towns too, due to the 
inability of the Castilians to carry on their industries or to sell in the 

1 Those curious about industrial conditions at this time should read the account 
in Chretien de Troyes* Le Chevalier au Lion (c. 1 172) of the silk loom set up by two 
demons, fils d'unefemme et d*un luiton, in a feudal castle in France. 

The conditions of this sweated labour are described minutely. Three hundred 
maidens captured in war, piecework paid at 4 deniers the pound woven, not one is 
able to earn 20 sous a week. They work all day and a large part of the night, eat only 
bread and are dressed in rags. The cloth they were making was the gold and silk 
tissue which Almerfa had made famous. After a terrible combat with the two capi 
talist demons who are described as noirs et hideux, the knight errant Yvain delivers 
them. 

1 take this episode with its circumstantial detail, quite out of keeping with the style 
of the poem, to be based on an experience by the poet of the first attempts by feudal 
barons to break the Andalusian monopoly by setting up factories of their own. Even 
the word luiton, derived from Netun, meaning Neptune (sea-borne), is significant. 

2 See Note C on p. 126 at end of chapter. 

3 See Note D on p. 127 at end of chapter. 



104 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

foreign market, led to a decrease in the demand for agricultural 
products. Aragon with its Mediterranean fleet might have saved 
Andalusia as she saved Valencia, but Castile could not. 

Moreover, a new factor was appearing which threw the balance 
decisively against agriculture. The foreign wool trade was becoming 
profitable and was taking the place of the trade in silk fabrics which 
had been the rage in Europe a century before. One of the last inno 
vations of the Spanish Moslems had been the introduction of the 
merino sheep from Africa, and its fine wool was more valuable than 
any other. The Castilian nobles saw that the easiest and most pro 
fitable use to which they could put their new territories would be to 
turn them into sheep runs. The kings saw that it would be profitable 
for them also, because the wool trade provided an easy means of 
levying taxes. The Castilian towns favoured it because their factories 
(and not those of Andalusia) would weave it. And so the famous 
sheep-farmers' guild, known as the Mesta, was founded and wool 
became the staple industry in Castile and in all the provinces ruled by 
her. The day of Andalusian civilization, with its complex but fragile 
economy based on a balance between large-scale industry and agri 
culture, was over. 

Nor was this all. The kings had given liberal charters to the 
Andalusian towns and large grants of common lands to those who 
settled in them. Thousands of needy Spaniards flocked in from the 
north. But the country was still crowded with Moslems, many of 
them slaves, and the large estates were worked exclusively with slave 
labour. In this atmosphere the Christian peasant could not live 
happily: work in the fields had a stigma attached to it. Besides the 
tendency to turn arable into pasture was very strong: soon the 
poderosos with their large herds controlled the greater part of the 
common lands. So little corn was grown that before long this once 
rich and prosperous country had become a byword for misery and 
starvation. Every few years during the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries there was a plague or epidemic at Seville due to under 
nourishment and thousands died. * Lfbrete Dios ' one reads in Guzman 
de Alfarache, *de la enfermedad que baja de Castilla y del hambre que 
sube de AndaluciaP 

And yet one cannot help feeling that behind this victory of the 
sheep farmers of Castile there lies some deeper and more permanent 
cause. The soil of the Central Plateau is a very poor one dura tellus 
Iberia, as Pliny calls it and except in certain favoured spots it 
requires great industry to make a living by cultivating it. So uncertain 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 105 

is the rainfall that crop failures and their attendant famines are fre 
quent. Often it is only by practising a kind of village communism that 
the peasants are able to get along at all. At the same time there are 
immense steppe lands ranged over by flocks and herds which at 
certain seasons become migratory. The shepherds wage a perpetual 
war on the agriculturalists, whom they regard as their inferiors, whilst 
both together feel a fierce envy of the city dwellers and cultivators of 
the rich oases and contrast their greed and wickedness with their own 
free and simple way of life. Now this is a type of society which is not 
confined to Spain but appears wherever certain climatic conditions 
prevail. It is strongly developed in Persia and in North Africa. One 
of its chief characteristics is its instability: it alternates violently be 
tween a centralized tyranny and an anarchic tribal or local life. With 
every bad drought or economic crisis there is either a revolution or a 
wave of religious exaltation, whilst at longer intervals there are great 
upheavals in which all the energies of the country are poured out in a 
war of conquest, leaving it inert and exhausted afterwards. 

Seen in this light the triumph of the sheep farmers of Castile after 
1248 is simply one result of the victory of those restless, explosive 
elements in Spanish life which were the heart and soul of the Recon- 
quista. Their spirit was to dominate Spain down to the eighteenth 
century and to block the path to economic recovery. The famous 
orientalism of the Spaniards is not due to * Arab blood 5 but to climate 
and geography. 

During the next four centuries sheep farming not merely took 
precedence over agriculture, but to a great extent displaced it through 
all the lands ruled over by the Crown of Castile. So much was this the 
case that a large part of the sparse population of the country lived on 
the verge of starvation. The sheep passed the summer on the great 
plateaux of Northern Castile and descended in autumn to Extrema- 
dura. Similar migrations took place in other parts of the Peninsula. The 
huge clouds of dust that accompanied their movements became one of 
the characteristic sights of Spain. As fences did not exist, there was a 
continual struggle between agriculturalists and sheep farmers over 
mutual encroachments and especially over the derrotas, as the rights of 
grazing on stubble were called. 1 In these struggles the Mesta nearly 

1 The custom of the derrotas is that by which all the flocks and herds of the 
community are allowed access to the stubble after the corn has been cut. It is a 
natural consequence of the communal ownership of the land that existed in gradually 
diminishing degree all over Spain until recent times. References to it are found in 
Visigothic laws: it was almost certainly Iberian. Indeed such customs, like that of 



106 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

always got the best of it, with the result that agriculture declined so 
rapidly that by the end of the seventeenth century the French Ambas 
sador was reporting that the area of cultivated land around Seville, 
which was then the largest and most prosperous city in the country, 
had shrunk to one-twentieth of what it had been a century before. 
Good corn lands were overgrown with palmetto ; broom and esparto 
were replacing olive trees and the pernicious goat was taking the place 
of the local (estante) sheep who, in contrast to the migratory (trans- 
humante), were necessary for well-balanced farming. 

This state of affairs naturally produced a great many suggestions for 
curing it. What Costa calls the ' collectivist school of economies' made 
its appearance and the Government accepted and even endeavoured to 
put into operation far-reaching plans for controlling and nationalizing 
the greater part of the land in Spain. But the decline had by this time 
gone so far that the State no longer possessed either the economic 
resources or the authority required for making its decrees effective, 
and moreover it still clung to the old Castilian view of the moral 
superiority of sheep farming to agriculture. 

The eighteenth century saw a complete reversal of this opinion. 
The new ideal was expressed by Campomanes when he declared that 
he wished to see every Spanish peasant owning a house and garden, a 
yoke of mules or oxen and 50 fanegas (70 acres) of land to plough. 
Moreover, he said, it was the business of the State to see that this was 
carried out. These views gradually won acceptance among the en 
lightened group of men who surrounded the King, and after the 
serious economic crisis of 1766, which led to riots all over Spain and 
to the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Government of Charles III decided 
that the moment had come for a serious attempt to solve the agrarian 
question and so to revive agriculture. 

Almost all land in Spain was at this time divided between the 
Church and the nobles and hidalgos in the form of mayorazgos (en 
tailed estates), or else it belonged to the communes. Except in the 
Basque provinces and Navarre and in one or two special districts such 
as Palencia, the small owner scarcely existed: where he did, it was 

gleaning, were common all over Europe. When, however, this right was claimed, as it 
frequently was, by migratory herds (ganado trashumante) it constituted an abuse. 
One may see in it then the record of a contract forced upon poor settlers on the land 
by powerful owners of flocks whether invading Celts or Visigoths or Knights of 
the Military Orders or rich magnates of the Castilian Mesta. This abuse was carried 
by the latter to such a point that by the middle of the seventeenth century the local 
oxen and sheep had been almost driven out of existence in the southern provinces of 
Spain by the migratory herds, and the whole equilibrium of agriculture destroyed. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 107 

because the communes had recently sold or given away some of their 
uncultivated land. The amount of this uncultivated land in Spain was 
enormous. In Castile the Venetian ambassador speaks of riding for 
days without seeing a house. 1 Even on the once fertile plains of 
Andalusia one went for hours without coming to a ploughed field; 
whole towns had disappeared, yet the misery and famine were so great 
that in 1750 the entire population of Andalusia decided to emigrate 
en masse and could with difficulty be prevented. This was apparently 
because the large estates existed then just as they do to-day, but were 
used for pasturage, whilst the communes had allowed their land to be 
monopolized by their richer members. Everywhere in Southern Spain 
the best land had been taken by the sheep and cattle owners. 2 

The problem presented to Charles Ill's ministers was that of dis 
entailing the mayorazgos or entailed estates (though not as a rule those 
of the nobles, which until the Cortes of 1812 were still sacrosanct) and 
also the bienes depropio or rented lands belonging to the communes. 3 
These lands, which were then for the most part uncultivated, were to 
be colonized in a systematic manner. The collectivist theories of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which condemned individual 
property and favoured State ownership with some degree of com 
munal management, were still in vogue and at La Carolina and other 
places near Cordova Olavide founded colonies of Germans on this 
principle. In 1771 a collection of reports, the famous Expedience 
Consultivo, was drawn up to act as a basis for the preparation of a new 
agrarian law. Its chief recommendations were the giving of proper 
securities for tenants, such as the iking of rents and the forbidding of 

1 See Note E on p. 127 at end of chapter. 

2 Actually some two -thirds of all the land in Andalusia was baldio or common 
land (See Jovellanos' Informe sobre la Ley Agrana, 1787) but the best land and all that 
lay near the villages either belonged to the Church and the nobles, or else was 
occupied by the flocks and herds of the local poderosos. In dry farming districts 
peasants without capital cannot cultivate any except the best land, since they starve 
with the first drought. And one must add the weakness and low vitality of the 
labouring classes, frequently mentioned in documents of the period, due to hunger 
and epidemics. This and the insecurity of the open country discouraged squatters. 
As to the large estates we have the definite assertion of Jovellanos that it paid the 
owners to cultivate them badly and to turn large areas over to cattle. 

3 The communes owned two kinds of land in Spain: the bienes de propio, which 
were lands rented out and the rents applied to paying the expenses of the munici 
pality: and the tierras comunes or concejiles, which are common lands at the disposal 
of everyone in the village and rarely rented. The bienes de propio originally covered 
those services which are paid for in England by rates (a feeble equivalent here is the 
* parish land '). But by the law of i May 1855 they were all sold and the sum obtained 
(after the usual deductions by caciques and local officials) placed in Government 
stock, where it has now greatly depreciated. 



108 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

sub-letting or eviction: the obligation of landlords to let uncultivated 
lands : the dividing up of the Uenes de propio in unalienable lots 
among the poorer neighbours and the creation of special allot 
ments of good land near the villages. These were all measures 
which, though moderate in comparison to the suggestions of the 
seventeenth- century economists, had to await the coming of the 
Republic in 193 1 to be given the force of law. Other recommendations 
(especially those of Olavide, the Commissioner for Seville) referred to 
the creation of new villages of small holdings which should be un 
alienable and indivisible on the Uenes de propio and even in some 
cases on the large estates. These reports were accepted by the Council 
of Castile and some steps were taken to put them into force, but the 
dismissal of Aranda by Maria Luisa in favour of Godoy and then the 
French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasion put an end to the 
whole programme. 1 When the Cortes of Cadiz took up the ques 
tion again in 1812 they followed the advice of the economist Jovel- 
lanos, 2 who was a disciple of Adam Smith, refused all truck with 
old-fashioned ideas of national ownership and began selling up the 
common lands on the open market to pay the national debt. This 
opened the sluice-gates. For there existed a large middle class anxious 
to find a good investment for its savings and to enhance its prestige by 
becoming landowners. Up to this time their chances of doing so had 
been slight, since almost all land in Spain that did not belong either to 
the Church or to the communes was entailed. Now they saw their 
opportunity, and since the peasants and small men lacked the capital 
to take up their share, the area occupied by large estates began to grow. 
This fatal agrarian policy of the Liberals was resumed when they 
returned to power in the thirties. The Church property (some 12 
million acres) was at once sold up at very low rates. A further sale of 
common lands followed. For an agricultural revolution was now 
beginning in Spain. Almost for the first time in her history since 
Roman days, Spain began to export agricultural products and land 
rose in value. Just as had happened in England in the sixteenth and 
eighteenth centuries, the more enterprising of the landlords and local 
capitalists began to look with longing on the common lands. The 
Cortes gave them every facility. They could not simply pass acts 
allowing them to appropriate them, as had been done in England 
municipal authority and local feeling in Spain were too strong but 

1 See Note F on p. 128 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note G on p. 129 at end of chapter. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 109 

by the law of 1836, and still more effectually by the laws of 1855 and 
1856, all the bienes de propio and such of the common lands as were 
not claimed by the villages for their immediate use were ordered to be 
sold on the open market. 1 This was a very unpopular law and was 
resisted in towns and villages all over Spain down to the end of the 
century. It deprived the peasants of their common lands, especially of 
their grazing, and of their rights to game, firewood and charcoal 
Again, the result, especially in Andalusia, was that the number of the 
large estates increased until the greater part of the land in Spain had 
passed into the possession of a class of nouveaux riches who worked it 
with a sharper eye to profit than the feudal landlords had done. At the 
same time peasant risings began in 1855 and recurred with increasing 
frequency during the next sixty years. 

Thus, in the space of a few decades, this huge heritage of national 
property preserved from the past was squandered, the foundation 
laid by generations of enlightened legislators was destroyed, and the 
Spanish peasantry were handed over to the tender mercies of a new 
class of landlords who henceforth were to live at their expense. That 
has been the real meaning of parliamentary government in Spain. A 
doctrinaire Liberalism totally unsuited to Spanish conditions, united 
to a swarm of lawyers, tradesmen and petty capitalists anxious to 
enrich themselves by cultivating the land, brought this about. This is 
the class that since 1843 ( t ^ ie dictatorship of Narvaez) has held poli 
tical power in Spain a middle class enriched not by trade or industry 
but by ownership of land and though one must admit that it broke 
up the stagnation of Spanish rural life and brought with it a degree of 
prosperity that had not been known before, it led also to greater 
inequality in its distribution and to a destruction of those safeguards 
(among which must be numbered the power and wealth, of the 
Church) that the poor had before possessed. 

The twentieth century gave a new impetus to this development. 

1 The only dissident from the law of 1836 was Fl<5rez Estrada, a Liberal deputy 
and landowner, who forms a bridge between the ideas of the previous century and 
those of the Socialists. He proposed that the large estates and common lands should 
be nationalized and rented to those who worked them. 'This*, he said, ' would 
provide a collective agrarian solution in accordance with Spanish tradition.' Al 
though this was the obvious way of dealing with the question, the Liberal deputies 
and their supporters were longing to buy up the land at low prices and no one 
listened to him. 

Another act which hit the peasant severely was the forbidding of derrotas on 
private property by a decree in 1853. The right of the poor man to pasture his cattle 
in winter on the rich man's stubble and fallow had from time immemorial been one 
of the corner-stones of Spanish agriculture. 



HO THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

There was a great rise in the prices of agricultural products and for 
tunes were made all over Spain by owners of land. In many parts of 
the country the price of land rose to ten times its former value within 
a few years. The increase in the size of the industrial centres brought 
large areas of poor and dry land under wheat, for since the sixteenth 
century cereals have been protected by a fixed price, the tasa, which 
allows them to be grown under otherwise unfavourable conditions. 
The European War saw the culmination of this prosperity: every 
cultivable acre of land was then sown, though the expansion had 
occurred so rapidly and Spanish landowners were as a rule so defi 
cient in capital and so little supported by the banks that there was still 
great room for improvement in the quality of the crop. 1 Since then, 
and especially since the slump that began in 1930, there has been a 
considerable decrease in the area cultivated. 

It should now be possible, after this long excursion back into 
history, to view in better proportion the problem of the large estates. 
They extend, as I have said, over the whole of the centre and south of 
Spain, beginning at Salamanca, Valladolid, Cuenca, Albacete and 
getting larger as they approach the south-west. In the three provinces 
of Extremadura, Andalusia and La Mancha alone 7000 proprietors, 
the greater part of them absentees, possess over 15 million acres. 2 

CASTILE 

Let us take first the central tableland of La Mancha and Castile. 
In Old Castile and as far south as the Tagus Valley the estates still 
belong for the most part to the nobility. The poorer the land the 
more nobles there are on it, as a Spanish proverb says, and few of 
these estates are large. Their origin goes back to the tenth and 
eleventh centuries, to the first stage of the Reconquista, when the 
kings and nobles, needing urgently to repopulate what were then 
uninhabited wastes, granted land on easy terms both to individual 
fanners and to communities of peasants. For this reason a consider 
able proportion of the soil (especially to the north of the Guadarrama) 
belongs to small peasant farmers and certain villages still own their 
own land and work it communally. 3 The peasants live in mud- 
coloured houses built of sun-dried bricks and roofed with red tiles : 

1 The yearly value of agricultural production rose from 81^- million pounds 
sterling in the period 1897-1901 to 306! in the period 1927-1928 (Madariaga, 
Spain). 2 See Pascual Carri<5n, Los Latifundios en Espana, 1932. 

3 See Note H on p. 129 at end of chapter. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION III 

the villages, smaller than in most parts of Spain, have an average 
population of under four thousand. Each owner or tenant farmer (for 
the estates are almost invariably let) has his plot of land, his yoke of 
oxen and his house in the village. The only crops are wheat and 
barley: the peasants grow few garden vegetables and often in the 
whole village there is not a single tree. The soil, too, except in the 
Tierras de Campos, is poor and the rainfall uncertain. Droughts are 
common and even a total failure of the crop. Since there is no effective 
system of agrarian credit 1 and no spread of crops the farmers must 
often have recourse to money-lenders. These are one of the worst 
plagues of the Castilian farmer or small peasant. The other is the 
short, unjust and insecure form of the lease. 

The long, share-cropping leases of the north, in which the owner 
and tenant live on intimate terms and take a common interest in the 
land, seem never to have existed in Castile. The typical lease here is, 
or rather used to be, the censo, a hereditary emphyteusis or quit-rent 
which came into vogue with the breakdown of feudal conditions. 2 
Towards the end of the Middle Ages the feudal dues which the village 
communities paid to the lord of the manor in return for a grant of 
land, which they held in common and (so it would seern) divided up 
by lot every few years among their members, were converted into a 
fixed rent or canon in kind which each separate villager paid into the 
manor barn, in exchange for the right to occupy his house and culti 
vate his strip of land in perpetuity. Generally speaking, wherever 
similar feudal conditions prevailed that is in Leon, parts of Catalonia 
and Aragon and (after the expulsion of the Moriscos) in Valencia, but 

1 See on this the Vizconde de Eza, minister in various Conservative Govern 
ments and a famous authority on land reform. * In spite of all the associations, 
syndicates and deposit banks scattered through Spain all of them. Catholic and 
the State Credit Bank, one must admit that a mechanism for agrarian credit simply 
does not exist' (Agrarismo, 1936, p. 178). The pdsitos or rural credit funds of the 
municipalities, first set up in the sixteenth century, were quite Insufficient. And 
one should add that the Catholic credit associations, when they existed, were not 
altogether a pure gain, since like the caciques they made trouble for anyone who did 
not vote for the Catholic candidate. See on this J. Chamberlain, El Atraso de 
Espana, 1919. The only province where they really took root was Old Castile. 

2 The Castilian censo is the bail hereditaire of the French, which under the name of 
emphyteusis was introduced into the public lands of the Italian communes and on the 
imperial latifundia during the late Roman Empire. To counteract the lack of slaves 
the land was let in perpetuity at.a fixed rate to anyone who would cultivate it. The 
rent or canon, as it was called, was low and the tenant was obliged to keep the property 
in repair. The practice of letting land on this system, though it goes back to the 
eleventh century, became general in Castile in the sixteenth century, when the 
nobles gave up living on their estates and took houses at the court or in the nearest 
town. 



112 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

not In the mountains of the north and not in Andalusia similar con 
versions took place. Later, for the greater convenience of the lord, 
who had gone to live in a town, payment of the canon came to be made 
in a fixed annual sum of money. Now, as has already been explained, 
the tendency of the censo orforo is to separate the landowner from all 
connection with his land and to make the peasant the virtual owner of 
the soil he cultivates. But in Castile this did not occur. Partly owing 
to the bad agricultural and climatic conditions of the central tableland, 
which prevented the Castilian peasant from acquiring the same in 
dependence as his Galician and Valencian brothers, partly owing to 
the proximity to Madrid and to all kinds of special psychological 
factors, the Castilian nobility never lost their connection with their 
estates. During the last century frequent bankruptcies and failures to 
pay rent resulted in the conversion of many of the censos to short- 
term leases. Special legislation was passed to assist this and to-day the 
censo is becoming a thing of the past. The short lease, which under the 
conditions that prevail in Spain is necessarily productive of poverty 
and deterioration of the land, has become the rule. In such leases 
everything is loaded against the tenant in favour of the landlord, who, 
one must insist again, has no obligations whatever, since he does not 
pay the taxes and cannot even be compelled to keep his houses and 
farms in proper repair. Yet he can evict and raise rents as he pleases. 
This situation has grown much worse in recent years with the appear 
ance of the land speculator and with the increase of hate between the 
classes; It leads to innumerable abuses. New landlords, who wish to 
take advantage of the land hunger, can subdivide the lots till there is 
not enough on each to support a family. Other landlords who live in 
Madrid and rarely visit their estates are unaware that their tenants 
frequently have to pay a second rent to the stewards. As the history of 
Ireland in the last century shows, this is a common accompaniment of 
absentee landlordism. And one can well understand how under this 
system few labourers or farmers dared to vote for any candidate who 
did not have a Conservative ticket. 1 

What was particularly serious was that this system of short leases, 
with all its accompanying abuses, was spreading. Owing to the loss of 
confidence between classes the aparceria or share-cropping system, 
which is the only satisfactory form of short contract, now only worked 
in the north. Many small farmers owning their own land had, for 
lack of a proper credit system, been squeezed out. The first Govern- 

1 See Note I on p. 129 at end of chapter. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 113 

ments of the Republic imposed restrictions upon landowners with a 
view to rectifying these abuses, but the succeeding Governments of 
Lerroux and Gil Robles either repealed them or allowed them to lapse. 
Thus the condition both of the peasant who owned his land and of the 
small tenant farmer has been growing steadily worse. 

Two examples of the wretched level on which these men live will 
suffice. In that part of Spain which had been assessed by 1929, out of 
1,026,412 landowners or tenants paying taxes, 847,548 earned daily 
less than one peseta. And in the typical Castilian province of Avila, 
out of 13,530 land-tax payers, 11,452 had a daily income of less than 
one peseta and only 320 had more than five pesetas. 1 These figures 
show a high degree of poverty. 

LA MANCHA AND EXTREMADURA 

As one travels south of the Tagus towards La Mancha and Extre- 
madura the estates increase in size and the number of small pro 
prietors and tenant farmers diminishes. These estates have a different 
origin to those of Old Castile. They were formed during the second 
stage of the Reconquista, between 1085 and 1248, when the kings had 
begun to incorporate territory that already had a settled Moslem 
population. The land so conquered was given not to individual nobles 
but to the newly constituted military orders, who, forming as they did 
the principal force of cavalry in the realm, were better able to defend 
it. Instead of settling on it communities of free peasants, they worked 
it partly with Moorish slave labour and partly with labourers who 
drifted in from the north, and turned the rest over to pasture. That is 
why these estates are larger than those in Northern Castile and or 
ganized on a different basis. Their peculiar name, later transferred to 
the slave-worked estates of the American colonies, was encomienda? 
In 1837 these lands were sold by the Government and bought up, as 
already described, by the middle classes in the towns. 

Conditions in these districts are, on the whole, worse than in Old 
Castile, since the land is poorer and the rainfall less. Round Val- 
depenas the vineyards give some prosperity. Round Albacete there 
are huge tracts of rough steppe pasture and underwood used as 

1 Pascual Carri6n, op. cit. Also Madariaga, Spain. 

2 An encomienda was an estate given by the King in senorio, or with full manorial 
rights, for one lifetime or for some determinate period only. The Comendador was 
the title of the temporary possessor, who enjoyed all or most of the rights of the 
King. After the twelfth century encomiendas died out except in the military orders, 
in which they were the recognized form of land tenure. 



114 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

shooting estates or for breeding mules. Elsewhere the short lease has 
become general. 

Extremadura, on the Portuguese frontier, is also a region of very 
large estates and of abject poverty. It is a great stock-breeding 
country, and the old conflict between the agriculturalist and the 
nomadic herdsman still goes on. One can trace this back as far as the 
Roman Conquest and the war of Viriathus. In more recent times, 
however, the main agrarian question has been different. On the plains 
round Badajoz is the rich corn-growing land that once helped to give 
its prosperity to the city of Merida. This land belongs almost entirely 
to large absentee proprietors who cultivate it badly, whilst the typical 
peasant is the landless yuntero who owns a team of ploughing mules 
which he grazes on the commons. Thus when the landowners wish to 
reduce the yunteros to order, they have only to let some of their land 
go out of cultivation. This problem of the landowner and the yuntero, 
which was so acute in the eighteenth century that the State had to 
intervene to solve it, is just as acute to-day, and we shall see the 
Republic forced in May 1936 to a hasty repartition of the large estates 
to avoid their being seized forcibly. In Spain kings and governments 
legislate, centuries pass, yet the fundamental problems remain un 
changed. 

The remaining parts of the province are so poor that only catch 
crops can be grown once in about twelve years. One crop exhausts the 
soil completely. 1 Yet the rivers are full of water and have a steep fall. 
Large tracts of this country could be irrigated. 

ANDALUSIA 

There remains only Andalusia, the classic land of the latifundia or 
slave-worked estates. Here we at once find ourselves on very different 
historical and geographical ground. These great estates, which cluster 
round the Guadalquivir Valley near Cordova and occupy wide areas 
along the lower reaches of the river, have come down in much their 
present form from Roman times. Ruined by the Roman fiscal system 
and by the pastoral habits of the Visigoths, reconstituted on a more 

1 Extremadura provides an extreme example of those multiple rights in land 
which are so typical of Spain. Much of the country consists in park-land, thinly 
planted with cork oaks. The right of winter pasturage may then belong to one 
person, of cutting cork to another, of collecting the dead branches to a third, of 
pasturing swine to a fourth and of growing a catch crop every five or six years to a 
fifth. All these rights may be absolute and hereditary : the ground landlord, if one 
exists, receives only a peppercorn rent. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 115 

magnificent scale by the Arabs, the property first of the Arab and 
Moorish tribes and then of princes and kings, they were handed over 
intact by Ferdinand III to the feudal lords who accompanied him in 
his conquest of Seville. Since that day they have provided the 
revenues of the great aristocratic houses of Castile. But not more 
than a third of the large estates that one sees in Andalusia to-day have 
this origin. The greater part were formed out of the break-up of the 
lands of the Church and the common lands in the nineteenth century. 
Bought at very low prices they made the fortunes of the middle-class 
families who acquired them and gave political power to the class which 
has ruled Spain since that day. And since the new estates rapidly took 
on the worst characteristics of the feudal latifundia that stretched 
alongside them, one may say that to-day there has ceased to be any 
real distinction between them. 

The old province of Andalusia or Baetica is formed by the basin of 
the Guadalquivir and the mountains that contain it. It is a land of 
rolling country, of both good and indifferent soil and of moderate rain 
fall (20 to 40 inches and even more near Cadiz), but the high degree of 
evaporation and the long rainless summer make the conservation of 
moisture the main problem for the agriculturalist. This fortunate 
region of Spain, as it is called by those who have only a passing 
acquaintance with it, offers a greater variety of crops than the central 
tableland, where as a rule only wheat and barley can be grown. The 
chief crop of the upper basin is the olive: round Cordova and Jaen are 
to be found the largest and richest olive estates in the world. Other 
crops are wheat, maize, leguminous plants and especially grapes. 
Near Seville the conditions are favourable for cotton. This variety of 
crops gives or could give a considerable spread of labour, but it must 
be remembered that their cultivation is conditioned by the dryness, 
which limits the productivity per acre and the possibilities of rotation. 
This is above everything else a country of dry farming. 

The special exigencies of dry farming are not always understood by 
people from other parts of Europe. For example, travellers in Spain 
have in all ages been struck by the vast amount of untilled soil or 
fallow land and have put this down to the laziness or incompetence of 
the Spaniards. That is not necessarily the case. As we have seen when 
dealing with Extremadura, there are many parts of Spain where the 
soil is so poor and so dry that one catch-crop exhausts it for eight or 
twelve years. Through a large part of Castile the custom used to be to 
sow land only once in four years. In Andalusia the classical system 



Il6 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

has been what is known as al tercio, by which land is left for one year 
in stubble, then ploughed and left for another year fallow (de barbecho) 
and only in the third year sown. The tendency to-day is to sow at 
least every second year (ano y mz}?- But there are difficulties in that. 
Not only is there the problem of refertilizing the soil, but there is also 
that of replenishing its moisture. These are not easy to solve simul 
taneously. Excessive use of artificial manures leads to over-salinity, 
whereas if cattle are turned on to the land, the weeds they feed on 
(besides being very short-lived) dissipate the water. Fallows to-day 
are therefore mostly clean ones and the refertilizing of the soil is left 
to bacteria produced by the sun's rays. Experiments with special 
types of agricultural machinery which pulverize the soil and so dimi 
nish evaporation have shown the possibility of getting good crops out 
of dry lands every year with scarcely any help from fertilizers, but how 
far these methods can be applied to any but the best soils is still un 
certain. Intensive dry farming is a scientific problem that must be 
solved by Spain. The great dry-farming districts in the Middle West 
of America have not approached it, because they do not have to 
support more than a fraction of the population. For this is the funda 
mental problem of Andalusia how to support a large population on a 
dry soil. 2 But it is complicated to such a point by bad organization and 
by appalling social conditions that the merely geographical factors are 
apt to fade into the background. These social conditions are what we 
must now investigate. 

As one descends the Guadalquivir Valley past Cordova to Seville 
and Cadiz the number of large estates increases. 3 They account for 
about 41 per cent of the total area of the province of Cordova, 50 per 
cent of that of Seville and 58 per cent of that of Cadiz. In three of the 
partidos or administrative districts of the province of Cadiz the large 
estates occupy 77, 84, and 96 per cent of the total area. And what is 
more significant, the large estates occupy the best land. 4 In Castile, 

1 See Note J on p. 129 at end of chapter. 

2 The population of Andalusia is only relatively large : excluding the principal 
towns, it is under 50 to the square mile. (Compare Belgium 264, Germany 137, 
Italy 134, for agricultural areas only.) But then Huesca and Guadalajara have only 
17 and Teruel and Cuenca only 18. 

3 For purposes of land survey, estates of over 250 hectares (625 acres) are classified 
as large estates or latifundia. I shall keep to that definition here. Unless otherwise 
stated, figures given in this chapter are from Pascual CarricSn. 

4 The concentration of property in a few hands is really far greater than these 
figures show, because they are based upon the areas of individual estates and there 
are no figures that show the numbers of estates held by the same family. The amount 
of land owned by individual proprietors is a jealously guarded secret in Spain. The 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 117 

New Castile and the Levante, the capital value of the large estates is 
not more than 5 per cent of the total value, showing that they occupy 
the bad land. In La Mancha the figure is from 21 to 26 per cent and in 
Extremadura it is from 25 to 30 per cent. But in Andalusia it is much 
higher 49 per cent for Seville and Cordova and more for Cadiz. In 
Seville therefore one finds that 50 per cent of the area of the province 
belongs to the large estates and produces 49 per cent of the total 
wealth the medium-sized estates producing 33 per cent and the 
small estates only 18 per cent. Since the small and medium-sized 
estates are more intensively worked, this would show that the large 
estates occupy most of the best ground. 

Arranging the figures in another way one finds that in the province 
of Seville 2344 proprietors (i.e. all those possessing more than 25 
acres), constituting 5 per cent of the total number of proprietors, 
produce 72 per cent of the total agricultural wealth. Further that, 
taking Andalusia as a whole, 1 the average yearly income of a large 
proprietor from his estates is 18,000 pesetas, whilst the average 
yearly income of a small proprietor (possessing under 25 acres) is 
161 pesetas. 2 Since there are 4101 such large proprietors and approxi 
mately 200,000 such small proprietors in this area, it is clear that these 
figures (even when one allows for the fact that the small proprietor 
consumes yearly some 700 pesetas worth of his own produce, which 
should therefore be added to the 160 pesetas he spends) show an 
enormous disparity of wealth. Yet it is not the small proprietor who 
is the characteristic problem of Andalusia, but the completely landless 
men, descendants of the slaves and poor whites' who once worked 
them the agricultural proletariat of the large estates. 3 

State has no record of it. E. H. G. Dobby in the course of an investigation into con 
ditions at Ecija and Carmona was given figures that showed that, on an average, 
every proprietor in those districts owned four estates there. It is common know 
ledge that rich families often hold property in several provinces, sometimes under 
different names. Pascual Carrion estimates that some 10,000 families own nearly 
half the land that has been surveyed in Spain. The unsurveyed part (north and 
north-east) would of course show a far more equal distribution of property. 

1 For the purposes of the Land Survey Andalusia (Baetica) comprises the five 
provinces of Ja6n, Cordova, Seville, Cadiz and Huelva, but not Granada, Malaga or 
Almerfa. 

2 The average yearly incomes for Old Castile show even greater extremes 23,000 
pesetas for the large proprietors and 102 for the small. But then the number of large 
proprietors is far less, whilst the average holding of the small proprietors is smaller. 
Everywhere in Spain, except in one or two favoured districts, the land belongs either 
to large landowners or to small poor peasants : the yeoman farmer is the exception. 

8 As I have already pointed out it seems likely that the peculiar demoralization of 
the landless labourers of Lower Andalusia was due to the fact that Christian peasants 



2I 8 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

The inhabitants of Andalusia are not scattered in farms or villages 
(there are very few villages in the Guadalquivir Basin and the oc 
casional farms one sees are new), but are concentrated in towns that 
have a population of from 8000 to 25,000. In between these 
towns, which generally occupy ancient Iberian sites and lie at some 
distance from one another, there is open country. An English or 
French town that has 12,000 inhabitants is a busy place. Not so an 
Andalusian pueblo of the same size. Let us take, for example, Osuna 
in the province of Seville with a population of 16,000 or else Moron 
with 19,000 or even Carmona with 22,000.* The first impression is 
one of decay and stagnation. A few wretched shops selling only the 
bare necessities of life: one or two petty industries soap-making, 
weaving of esparto mats, potteries, oil-distilleries that between theni 
employ some couple of hundred men: the ancestral houses of the 
absentee landowners, dilapidated and falling into ruin: then a few 
bourgeois families the overseers of the large estates or the farmers 
who rent from them and who only remain here because their 
interests compel them to: from eight to twelve hundred families, 
mostly poor, who own or rent a small property or have some settled 
employment. And then the landless proletariat. Three-quarters of 
the population consists in these men and their families, who are hired 
by the day, by the month, by the season rarely for longer than that 
by the overseers of the large estates or by the tenant farmers who rent 
from them. For more than half the year they are unemployed. 

The more closely one examines the conditions in this area of large 
estates, the more terrible and shocking they are seen to be. Till the 

cultivated their share of the common lands side by side with the Moslem serfs who 
worked on the large estates. The tendency to turn arable into pasture then spreading 
the poderosos monopolized the common lands for their large herds and the peasants 
were thrown out of work. Many of them gravitated to the large estates and mixing 
with the serfs employed on them, sank to form a Christian race of inferior category 
I here were still serfs of the glebe in Andalusia down to the middle of the eighteenth 
century. 

This did not happen in Valencia and Aragon because there almost all the land was 
owned by the nobles, who cultivated it with Moorish labour, and when these Moors 
were expelled in 1602 their place was taken by tenants who rented it on the censo 
system. 

1 Compare Newbury with 13,000, Bideford with 9000, Cirencester with 7000 
Wantage with under 4000. Ecija, a town of 30,000, has far worse shops than 
Wantage. Yet these provinces are the richest in Spain. The liquido impontilei e 
the yearly product of the land after the costs of production have been deducted of 
the province of Seville amounts to 71 million pesetas, more than that of any of the 
other provmces that have been surveyed. Compare Toledo 35 millions, Granada 
40, Cordova 42, Malaga 27, Avila 16. Yet Seville is, with Cadiz, the province where 
the poverty of the men who work on the land is more extreme than in any other part 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 119 

European War the landlords generally worked their estates directly 
under overseers. They cultivated only the best land and left the rest 
untilled. Starving labourers who attempted to plough it were beaten 
by the police. During the war it paid them to cultivate the whole of it, 
but since 1918 the area of uncultivated land began inevitably to grow 
again. In 1931, for example, there were 33,000 acres uncultivated at 
Osuna and 50,000 at Utrera: at Jerez de los Caballeros a certain duke 
kept 56,000 acres uncultivated as a shooting estate. 1 No doubt a con 
siderable proportion of this land was only fit for rough pasture. 
However, near Seville there are still 75,000 acres of the very best land 
given up to bull breeding, and in the province of Cadiz, where there is 
good rainfall, the amount of arable land employed in horse and cattle 
breeding is enormous. 

Such a lack of self-interest in rich landowners living in Madrid or 
Seville may appear extraordinary, but the average aristocrat simply 
took the advice of his steward and did not bother his head about 
estates where he knew no one by sight and which he regarded very 
much as if they were in some distant colony. When for example the 
Duke of Alba, who has not got the reputation of being a bad landlord, 
visited his ancestral acres he did so with an equipment of lorries and 
tents, as though he were travelling in the centre of Africa. Very often, 
too, the owner did not have the capital to develop the land, and the 
banks would not lend it to him. And then, as Senor Madariaga has 
pointed out, there were sometimes special reasons for reducing the 
area under cultivation. By taking advantage of the unemployment so 
caused he could knock something off the wages and so 'reduce the 
rebellious workers to submission*. 

Since the slump that followed the war and especially since the 
coming of the Dictatorship the tendency of the large landowners has 
been to rent out more and more of their estates. In 1930 between 70 
and 80 per cent of the large Andalusian estates were rented in farms of 
from 100 to 1000 acres. The rents paid were high at Carmona, a 
typical Sevillian district, they were 6 J per cent on the capital value of 
the land. 2 And it must be remembered that the landlord had no 
obligations he neither paid taxes, nor kept his houses in repair nor 

1 See Nicolo Pascazio, La Rivoluzione di Spagna, 1933. As to the bull pastures, 
these have existed from the remotest antiquity. Strabo describes the black bulls 
feeding by the river just as one sees them to-day and speaks of their descent from the 
oxen of Geryon. 

2 Information given me by E. H. G. Dobby, who made a special study of the 
agrarian conditions in this district. 



120 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

spent money on improving his estate. E. H. G. Dobby describes how 
he once pointed out to a large tenant farmer the encroaching palmetto 
scrub on his fields. 'Let the landlord see to it*, was his angry reply. 
And so the condition of the land was slowly deteriorating. The 
position since 1928 of these tenant farmers, caught between a falling 
market and a rising wages bill, has been intolerable. 

We can now approach the question of the braceros or landless 
labourers, who make up three-quarters of the population. Their wages 
to begin with: in 1930 they were earning on an average from 3 to 3.50 
pesetas (i.e. is. 6d. to is. 9d.) for an eight-hour day during four or 
five months of the year. In summer under the terrible heat of the 
Andalusian sun they earned from 4 to 6 pesetas (2s. to 35.) for a 
twelve-hour day during two or three months. 1 During the rest of the 
year that is during four, five, or six months they were unemployed. 
Since there were no small holdings for them to work in, no allotments, 
not even a patch of garden to their houses and absolutely no system of 
municipal or Church or State relief, they would have starved during 
their spells of unemployment, but for the credit given by the shops. 
As it was they lived in a state of chronic hunger and the deaths from 
malnutrition, which reach a high figure in almost every part of the 
Peninsula, were here particularly numerous. One cannot, even in 
Spain, bring up a family on from 600 to 1000 pesetas (15 to 25) a 
year, without the resources that the English country-side gives of a 
garden or allotment, wiring a rabbit, doing an odd job here and there. 

And I have not given the lowest figures. On the distant farms and 
in the mountain hamlets wages dropped to 2.25 pesetas a day for men 
and to from i .0 to i .25 pesetas for women. 2 In out-of-the-way places 
the eight-hour day was not observed. The periods of unemployment 
were often even longer than five or six months, especially when there 
were spells of wet weather or drought, and any men whom the land 
lords had a grudge against failed to get work at all except during 
harvest. 3 In 1930 there were over 200,000 labourers unemployed in 
Andalusia during the greater part of the year and after 1930 this figure 
increased rapidly. 

1 See Note K on p. 130 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note L on p. 130 at end of chapter. 

3 At Montilla, with a population of 16,000, in a district which has a high standard 
of farming and a considerable variety of crops, there were, in 1924, 3000 labourers 
unemployed for a considerable part of the year. This was in a period of boom, at the 
beginning of the Dictatorship. The minimum number of days of unemployment was 
90. In other parts of Andalusia it was 150. (F. de los Rfos, Agrarian Problems in 
Spain.) 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 121 

During the ploughing and the harvest, which occupied several 
months, the labourers would leave their families and sleep at the large 
cortijos, which would often be some ten or twenty miles away from the 
village. They slept, men and women together, sometimes a hundred 
at a time, on the floor of a long room called the ganania, which had a 
fireplace at one end. The landowner fed them : except at harvest time, 
when they were given beans, the only dish was gazpacho, a soup of oil, 
vinegar and water with bread floating on the top. They took it hot for 
breakfast, cold for lunch, hot again at night. Sometimes to this diet of 
maize bread and oil, potatoes and garlic would be added. When the 
landlord provided the food, the wages were rarely more than 1.5 
pesetas, for which they generally worked 12 hours, with rests. These 
conditions, first described in 1904 by Blasco Ibafiez in his novel La 
Bodega and, later, by A. Marvaud and other investigators, had not 
appreciably changed by 1930 in Lower Andalusia, as I can testify 
from personal experience. 

And the housing conditions: great numbers of these families did 
not own any furniture except a cooking pot and ate their meals like 
animals on the ground. But I will quote E. H. G. Dobby, whose 
impartiality is evident to anyone who has read his monographs. 

*I recall an incident during a visit (in 1935) to an experimental pig 
farm in an out-of-the-way part of Andalusia. From the darkness at 
one end of the building came a red glow. I went along and found a 
labourer's family crouched on the floor round a twig fire with smoke 
so thick that breathing was difficult. The malodorous squalor con 
trasted with the carefully washed sties that I had been seeing. To my 
query an old woman mumbled: "Yes, we live here. Worse than the 
pigs." At which the owner beside me exclaimed indignantly: "You 
have a roof over your head. What more do you want?" ?1 

Such wages, such conditions to-day may seem almost incredible. 
They are unique in Europe. 2 And yet the tenant farmers, under the 
pressure of high rents and taxes and falling markets, cannot afford to 
pay more. For since 1850, and indeed from far earlier times, there has 
been a steady competition between landowner and labourer, the first 
to see how little he can pay, and the latter to see how little he can 
work. Andalusian workmen, given the opportunity, are the hardest 
working and most skilled manual labourers in Spain. After all they are 
many of them the descendants of the 'industrious Moors' of the 

1 See Note M on p. 130 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note N on p. 130 at end of chapter. 



122 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

history books, few of whom ever came from Morocco. 1 But when so 
many of their comrades are unemployed, it becomes a point of honour 
with them to do as little work as possible. And they are also well 
aware of the manner in which they are exploited. In these towns the 
atmosphere of hatred between classes of tenant for landlord, of 
landless proletariat for everyone who employs him has to be seen to 
be believed. Since the Republic came in many landlords have been 
afraid to visit their estates. And the labourers are all Anarchists. 
What else can one expect under such conditions miserable pay, 
idleness for half the year and semi-starvation for all of it ? The herding 
together of labourers for months at a time away from their families 
also increases their receptivity to revolutionary ideas. And legal 
methods of protesting are ruled out: the cacique system is at its worst 
in Andalusia and regularly at every election Catholic- Conservative 
deputies are returned for Anarchist constituencies. When force ceases 
to be possible, bribery takes its place, and down to the last election of 
1936 tens of thousands of starving labourers took the money or 
promises of work of the landlords and voted for their candidates. 2 

What is the remedy for these conditions ? In the first place some 
thing could be done by compelling landlords to cultivate their land 
better, by insisting on a greater variety of crops and by facilitating 
credits. In Lower Andalusia, as in Castile, there are no olives and no 
vines only wheat and barley, which give little spread of labour. The 
standard of cultivation is usually low: intensive methods (especially in 
the vineyards) would double the employment. 3 Local industries could 

1 See Note O on p. 130 at end of chapter. 

2 Lower Andalusia is probably the only region in Europe where the condition of 
the agricultural workers has not improved in the last hundred and fifty years. To 
wards 1780 Campomanes wrote: ' In Andalusia the inhabitants are nearly all simple 
labourers who have only temporary and precarious occupation and live the rest of 
the year in poverty, plunged in inaction, for lack of remunerative work. Their wives 
and children are without work and all, piled up in the towns and large villages, live 
on charity ... in a wretched starvation which does not correspond to the fertility of 
the soil and certainly is not caused by their idleness * (Cartas potttico-econdmicas, 
Carta in). This is an exact description of the state of affairs to-day. 

3 One of the intensive methods of culture proper to Andalusia, but rare in 
Castile, is the repeated hoeing (escardar) of wheat and oats. It was not as a rule 
practised by the ancients, but was introduced by the Arabs in the twelfth century. 
Abu Zacaria quotes a book of agriculture by Kutsami, a Nabathaean (i.e. a Chaldean), 
who recommended it. Since then it has been the custom in Andalusia to hoe all 
sown land twice and this gives a good deal of employment. But landlords, to cut 
their labour costs, have recently been reserving it for the best land. The same thing 
applies to ploughing. In dry farming areas the land needs to be ploughed several 
times between crops to pulverize the soil and reduce evaporation. This has been the 
custom since early times, but lately many landowners have neglected it. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 123 

also be stimulated. Why, for example, should Spain, the largest pro 
ducer of olive oil in the world, send so much of her oil to be refined 
abroad? Then considerable tracts of land could be irrigated. Andalusian 
landowners have usually objected to irrigation because they feared that 
their lands would then be expropriated in favour of small proprietors, 
who work them better; round Seville and Cordova, for example, they 
for a long time opposed every scheme. Altogether there were some 3 J 
million acres in Spain under irrigation in 1931 and on a conservative 
estimate this area could be doubled without an unreasonable outlay. 
Since irrigated land produces from six to thirty times the amount 
produced by unirrigated land, the gain is obvious, but a whole genera 
tion of peace and prosperity would be needed to build and pay for the 
necessary engineering works. The Civil War has put off such projects 
indefinitely. 

The other more fundamental remedy is the breaking up of the large 
estates and their cultivation by the men who at present work on them. 
In most cases the land could not be divided among individual families. 
The only reasonable solution through wide tracts of Spain is a col 
lective one. This, as I have explained, has respectable antecedents in 
Spanish history, and it has recently been adopted in many parts of 
Southern Italy (the affitanze collective), but the fact that such methods 
have corne to be associated with Soviet Russia has not recommended 
them either to the Right or to the Republican parties. In many districts 
the peasants are themselves averse to it, but the anarchist ideology in 
Andalusia has made it the favourite solution there and this is a factor 
which any sensible government would take advantage of. 

For the advantages of communal ownership of the land are enor 
mous. Under present conditions one has agricultural labourers dying 
of hunger on estates where large tracts of corn-growing land lie fallow 
because it does not pay to cultivate them. The high labour costs (due 
to geographical conditions) of Spanish wheat forbid export abroad, 
and as much as can be sold at the price current in Spain, though not 
nearly as much as could be eaten, is already grown. If the villagers 
could cultivate their land collectively, using modern machinery, they 
could feed themselves and sell the surplus. Hunger would disappear 
and, without injury to the State, their anarchist ideology, or all that 
matters to them of it, would be satisfied. Moreover, that division of 
interests between peasants and town workers, which exists in every 
European country except Spain and which the middle classes so much 
desire, would at once make its appearance. Only the incurable stupi- 



124 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

dity of the Spanish ruling classes and their governments and the 
ignorance of the traditionalist parties, who seem not to have the 
slightest notion of the conditions under which Spaniards really lived 
in the age which they prof ess to imitate, have prevented agrarian reform 
from being carried out long ago. 

Since the refusal of the Spanish upper classes to yield an inch in 
this question has been the most important single cause of the Civil War, 
it is necessary to emphasize it. Their obstinacy is, moreover, at com 
plete variance with the times. In most parts of Central and Eastern 
Europe the estates of the nobles that down to 1918 covered the land 
have been broken up and handed over to the peasants. It was those 
same peasants, who, in the troubled years of 1918-1923, formed, as 
they still form to-day, the barrier against Bolshevism. One might 
have supposed that the Spanish Church and the ruling classes would 
realize this. But Spain is a peninsula, cut off from the rest of Europe, 
psychologically and climatically at variance with its neighbours, and 
this isolation has produced among certain classes an obstinacy and 
resistance to change which neither facts nor arguments have any 
effect upon. 

There is not much that need be said here about the industrial 
workers. Although numerically they were nearly half as numerous as 
the land workers, the greater part of them were agricultural labourers 
and sons of poor peasants who had flowed into the towns, and still 
kept the habits and ways of thought of countrymen. This was es 
pecially the case in Barcelona, where about half the factory workers 
were immigrants from the drought-ridden provinces of Almerfa and 
Murcia. This greatly helped to give that city its revolutionary 
character, so surprising when one considers its prosperity. Generally 
speaking the conditions of life of the industrial workers were much 
more favourable than those of the peasants and agricultural labourers. 
In the large centres of Catalonia and Asturias, and especially at Bilbao 
and in the Rio Tinto mines, they had obtained quite recently by 
organization and strikes a relatively high standard of living. In the 
smaller mining and industrial centres their wages were still miserable 
when the Republic came in, and the working conditions in the mines 
themselves were often very bad. But this was remediable. The 
poverty and unemployment among large sections of the middle classes 
presented a more serious problem, for here the cause lay in the dis 
organization and inertness of the whole Spanish economic structure 
and in old hereditary vices which could not be remedied in a moment. 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 125 

Yet there is perhaps no country in Europe whose economic organi 
zation presents fewer difficulties than that of Spain. To begin with, 
the Spaniards are to a very great extent self-supporting. They grow 
all their own food supplies except coffee. The factories at Barcelona, 
which produce only for the home market, furnish most of their other 
needs. Many of their chief exports, iron ore, mercury, potash, copper, 
pyrites, olive oil, early potatoes and onions, Canary bananas, com 
mand ready markets. Others such as oranges and wine could be more 
easily sold if they were not so badly organized. The Spanish economic 
problem can be summed up as that of how to increase the buying 
power of the country districts so as to give more work to the towns. 
It must of course be borne in mimd that the principal food stuffs, 
such as bread and meat, can only be produced at figures that are sub 
stantially above world prices, and that this in turn raises the wages of 
the industrial workers and becomes a fixed charge on the standard of 
living of the country. To decrease the duties on corn and meat would 
be to ruin Spanish agriculture. But Spaniards do not ask to live on the 
same scale of comfort as Englishmen: both the climate and the frugal 
customs make that unnecessary, so that this disadvantage is more 
apparent than real. And even within the capitalist framework a proper 
organization of the banking and industrial system would reduce the 
present unnecessarily high manufacturing costs. 

But it is obvious that the closed economic system of Spain lends 
itself with particular aptness to a socialist experiment. The Spanish 
temperament also points that way. The famous individualism of the 
race does not apply to economics. Liberalism failed in Spain because 
Spaniards are essentially anti-capitalist and uncompetitive : they have 
neither the bad nor the good qualities, neither the attachment to 
money for its own sake nor the suppleness and perseverance required 
for success in the modern capitalist world. As a rule they are happier 
in the shelter of Government posts, where they multiply readily, or in 
those professions where they can devote themselves to serious ends, 
than in what they consider to be the sordid struggle of business life. 
If there has been so much corruption in Spain, it has been due partly, 
of course, to poverty, but also to the fact that Spaniards do not 
naturally distinguish between the money transactions that are prac 
tised by every European business man and simple stealing. In these 
matters they have a mediaeval conscience more delicate than ours, 
which tells them that all sudden or unjustified gain, unless of course 
it comes as the will of Allah in the form of a lottery prize, is a crime. 



126 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

Such a frame of mind invites Socialism, and one can not help thinking 
that if the Russian Revolution had not linked that word to the most 
terrible savagery and misery and if Marxists had not narrowed it down 
to the most rigid and doctrinaire of creeds, a moderate Socialist 
regime might have come into existence in Spain without bloodshed. 
There are many factors in Spanish character and history that point in 
that direction. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER VI 

A (p. 89). The people and the clergy against the ruling classes how often this 
situation recurs in Spanish history ! To dismiss it however, as the Marxists do, as an 
example of a Lumpenproletariat led by monkish agitators for their own ends is 
seriously to misunderstand the whole business. In most of these risings there was a 
community of interests and the people gained materially. An early example of such 
an alliance occurs in Moslem times when the faquis and the people regularly com 
bined against the legitimate rulers (at first the Caliphs, then the Taifa kings) in 
favour of some more religiously minded dynasty. Here religion and self-interest 
were closely intermingled, for the Koran forbade the imposition of any other taxes 
than the poll tax and a fixed land tax, and the Caliphs and kings with their expensive 
courts and large armies to support had had the impiety to break this law. Again, 
under Christian rule, the rising against the Jews was indirectly a movement against 
the nobles who protected them and intermarried with them, whilst the expulsion of 
the Moriscos in 1602 was a deliberate attack on the large landowners who worked 
their lands with Moorish slaves and were now forced to let them on generous terms 
to small holders. In fact this expulsion is simply the last battle of the social struggle 
called the Germanfa. In the War of the Spanish Succession one has a different 
situation : this was a civil war, Castile fighting Catalonia and both clergy and people 
divided. The monks and priests led the popular forces on both sides, because long 
custom had made them the natural leaders of the people and Spaniards cannot 
conceive of wars which have no ideological significance. 

B (p. 98). All travellers to Spain in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries 
speak of the terrifying poverty and ignorance of the peasants of Old Castile, in spite 
of their having an abundant rainfall and a good soil. There were many reasons for 
this, one a crushing land tax, farmed out to ruthless collectors and another an inheri 
tance law by which the land had to be equally divided among the children. The 
Conde de Cabarnis, who was one of Charles's IIPs ministers, writes of it as follows: 
'I turn again with horror to that immense and incoherent mass of theocracy, 
republicanism, military despotism, feudal anarchy, ancient errors and modern 
extravagances, that mass of 36,000 laws with their formidable commentaries, and I 
say that to such a monstrous tyranny I prefer liberty and, with all their risks, the 
laws of nature.' (Carlos sobre los Obstdculos que la Naturaleza, la Opinidn y las Leyes 
oponen a la Feliddad Publica, 1808.) 

Anyone tempted to decry the innovations brought by the Liberal regime should 
compare the state of Old Castile in 1808 with its state in 1933 and again with its 
state to-day, 

C (p. 1 03). It may be of interest to contrast the character of Moslem and Christian 
Spain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries as reflected in their different forms of 
land^ tenure. The intensive cultivation of the land in Andalusia was merely the 
inevitable consequence of the springing up there of large-scale industry. This in its 
turn was due to the commercial instincts of the Arabs and to their control of the 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 127 

Mediterranean Basin. It was natural therefore that land should be regarded by 
them as a merchandise, capable of being bought and sold and susceptible to appre 
ciation and depreciation. Although some large estates remained from the first 
partition after the conquest, the greater part of the land was either state property or 
belonged to small peasant farmers, mostly of Berber origin, who had squatted on the 
baldios or commons that at the time of the Visigothic Kingdom covered three* 
quarters of the country. The state lands (which included most of the best soil) were 
at first cultivated by serfs, who worked them for their own benefit, but paid a fixed 
proportion (usually two-thirds) of the crop to the State, The same was true of the 
private properties, where the proportion paid was higher. But the tendency was for 
these serfs to improve the conditions of their labour and to liberate themselves, so 
that gradually there grew up a class of small farmers and peasants who either owned 
their own lands or rented them on the share-cropping principle. Large-scale private 
property did not increase because the State early adopted the practice of allotting 
life rents to its beneficiaries out of certain estates without alienating or losing control 
over them. These peasants were the stabilizing influence in the Caliphate. 

In Christian Spain one of these tendencies is observable: serfs were replaced by 
free peasants paying a fixed rent in kind and this change took place earlier and was 
more thorough-going than in Moslem lands. But there were two great differences. 
The Moslems lacked even the most elementary feudal system. Landlords there had 
no jurisdictional rights and their estates, far from being entailed (as they were in 
Christian Spain down to 1822), were usually broken up on their death among the 
various members of their family. They also lacked the free communes, i.e. the towns 
and villages with charters, which were very common in the north and which, of 
course, were a perfectly normal development of the feudal age. That is to say, in 
Christian Spain local liberties and feudal privileges developed side by side, whilst 
among the Moslems nothing was permitted to infringe upon the powers of the 
central government. 

The history of Spain can thus be interpreted in the light of two different con 
ceptions of land tenure. In the north the possession of land stood for power and 
authority : in the south it stood for profit and well-being. In the former case the 
feudal idea became in time, through the medium of the free communes and the 
increase in the number of mayorazgos, democratized : even the humblest aspired to 
power, to nobility, to family permanence, and the result was a society in which the 
gentlemanly ideal of leisure and authority took precedence over that of material 
well-being. In the latter a much more expansive and hedonistic frame of mind 
prevailed and work was regarded as the only road to prosperity. (See especially 
E. Le*vi-Provencal, UEspagne Musulmane au Xieme Siecle. Institutions et Vie 
Sociale. Paris, 1932.) 

D (p. 1 03). How rapidly the condition of the land in Andalusia deteriorated may be 
judged from this example. In Moslem times Ecija was the centre of an agricultural 
district with a certain amount of irrigation. In 1275, only twenty-eight years after 
the conquest of the country by the Christians, a successful razzia here by the Sultan 
of Morocco produced a vast booty of sheep. In 1707 the principal wealth of the 
town lay in sheep farming (Alvarez de Colmenar, Delices de I'Espagne et du Portugal). 
To-day, though there is no trace of irrigation, most of the land is arable. 

We get a close-up of the same process after Granada was taken in 1492. Thirty- 
four years later the Venetian ambassador Andrea Navagero visited it and wrote an 
account of what he saw: * Hidden among them' [the waters, fruit-trees, woods] ' are 
the farms of the Moors, many in ruins, for the Moorish population is diminishing 
and it is they who kept everything in order: the Spaniards, here as in other parts of 
Spain, are not industrious and disdain agriculture.' 

If this could happen at the height of the vitality of the new Spanish Empire after 
the occupation of a small very fertile region, what must have been the disorgani 
zation in 1248 when the whole of Andalusia had to be absorbed ? 



128 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

E (p. 107). The first impression made upon every traveller in Spain in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries was its extraordinary and almost terrifying barrenness. 

'Only what is near the villages', wrote Francisco Guicciardini of his visit in 

1512-1513, 'is tilled and that badly, and the rest remains uncultivated The 

poverty is very great and in my opinion is due less to the nature of the country than 
to the character of the inhabitants, opposed to all work.' 

Federico Cornaro, 1678-1681 : ' One can travel for days on end without passing a 
house or village, and the country is abandoned and uncultivated.' 

Giovanni Cornaro, 1681-1682: 'Spain gives the impression of being a desert of 
Libya, so unpopulated is it.' 

Carlo Ruzzini, 1690-1695: 'The nobles never visit their estates, which for that 
reason are ruined, and in order to dress themselves they have to sponge on the 
revenues of the Kings.' 

The Marquis de Villars, who visited Spain three times between 1671 and 1692, 
declared that not only Castile but Andalusia too was almost uninhabited. And there 
are few travellers after 1650 who do not remark on the large numbers of French 
labourers (70,000 according to Villars) who came every year to Spain, not for the 
harvest only, but also to sow and plough. 

One may argue as to the ultimate causes of this decay, but the immediate cause is 
clear. The sheep farmers of Castile, encouraged by every king since the thirteenth 
century and especially by Isabella and Philip II, had spread over almost the whole of 
the country. And no one thought this mattered. Down to the eighteenth century 
stock breeding was believed to be the natural industry of Spain, the source of her 
superior nobility and of her military prowess, on which her position in the world 
depended. Thus , although there were famines every few years from 1500 on and corn 
had to be imported from abroad, little regard was paid to the decline of agriculture: 
again and again one finds the Cortes demanding that land which had recently been 
ploughed up should be compulsorily returned to pasture : the only thing that really 
roused public opinion was when it was thought that horses and mules were being 
exported to France. 

In the seventeenth century, it is true, the increasing deterioration of agriculture 
caused a good deal of alarm: the country could no longer feed itself, but the decline 
of sheep and cattle breeding (especially in the herds of the small farmers) was thought 
to be even more dangerous, and in 1633 an( i again at recurring intervals through the 
century decrees were issued forbidding the breaking up of the pasture lands (which 
then occupied about six-sevenths of the surface of Spain) and regulating their use 
very strictly. One may judge the attitude of the time on this question from Caxa de 
Leruela, an alcalde mayor of the Mesta and a man of some influence, who recom 
mended, as a cure for the poverty of Spain, the turning over of almost the whole land 
to pasture, and a distribution of flocks and herds among the peasants. And the 
reason he gave was that for making life agreeable and redeeming it from poverty 
there was nothing like a pastoral occupation. ' The bread of the ploughman is bitter 
and it is kneaded with sweat. No herdsman was ever seen to beg: for his cattle are 
the staff of his old age, whereas the peasant, as soon as his bodily strength is wasted 
in hoeing and ploughing, even if he be the owner of a little land, will have no other 
remedy but to die of hunger or to beg on the high roads.* 

F (p. 108). The first aim of the eighteenth- century statesmen was to give the 
peasants the full advantage of the immense tracts of uncultivated land belonging to 
the communes, which were in practice appropriated by the caciques or poderosos 
for pasturing their cattle. Two methods of doing this were suggested. 

(a) The lands were to remain in the possession of the communes and those which 
were arable were to be divided by lot among the poorer neighbours every few years 
(sorteo periodico de las iierras de labor}. This was the traditional system which had 
come down from the early Middle Ages and which was still practised in many parts 
of the country. The laws of 1770 and 1771 dividing the baldios of Extremadura and 



THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 129 

New Castile among the yunteros (or possessors of a yoke of mules or oxen) are 
examples of this method of solving the question. 

(b) Individual holdings (cotos) were to be created which would be unalienable, 
indivisible and unaccumulative and which would pay a fixed rent or censo to the 
State. This was the system which, as has already been described, had in many parts 
of Spain taken the place of the old feudal tenures, generally of a communal nature, 
on the large estates. In the settlement of the Alpuj arras after the expulsion of the 
Moors in 1571 the State had for the first time adopted this method and it had been 
repeated in the colonization of the Sierra Morena with Germans in the eighteenth 
century. The majority of Charles Ill's ministers inclined to it. 

As regards the large estates the general opinion was that the landlords should be 
compelled to let them in small lots in perpetuity at fixed rents: that is to say, the 
contract should take the form of an emphyteusis or censo. This was regarded as being 
more prudent than expropriation, and it would in time have led to what, from the 
reign of Philip II to the establishment of the parliamentary regime, was usually 
looked on as the solution to be aimed at the ownership of the land by those who 
worked it. 

Yet all the efforts of the eighteenth-century reformers came to nothing. The 
reason for this was that, in the first place, they did not have sufficient time to carry 
them out nor power to overcome the passive resistance of the caciques. Then the 
State lacked the capital to buy mules and equipment for the new settlers and to 
establish an efficient credit system. This is the rock on which all agrarian reform in 
Spain has broken down. Poverty of soil and aridity of climate make the existence of 
the small farmer almost unbearable. And it is to be doubted whether a good agrarian 
credit system can by itself overcome this difficulty. In many districts the only real 
solution would seem to be, either the direct cultivation of the land by the State or 
collective cultivation by the community in one form or another. It is not for nothing 
that the working classes of Central and Southern Spain for all their marked 
individualism have strong tendencies to communal organization. Those who wish 
to change this are swimming against a strong current. 

G (p. 108). Jovellanos' Informe sobre la Ley Agraria, published in 1787 as a reply to 
the Memorial ajustado del Expedients Consultivo of 1784 (the great summary of 
eighteenth-century ideas on agrarian questions), is the most famous book in Spanish 
economics and marks the beginning of the Liberal era. 

H (p. no). In Castile and Leon only 27 per cent and in New Castile only 33 per 
cent of the land belongs to estates of over 250 hectares (625 acres). The figure for La 
Mancha is 61 per cent, for Extremadura 62 per cent and for Andalusia 55 per cent. 
Of the different provinces Cadiz has the largest figure 68 per cent, and Seville 59 per 
cent. In La Mancha and Extremadura a high percentage of the land is only fit for 
pasture, whereas in Cadiz and Seville it is as a rule very fertile. (Pascual Carridn, 
op. cit.}. 

I (p. 112), See Madariaga on the 'totally unrestricted right of the landlord to 
arrange the terms of the lease as he wishes' (Spain, p. 196). Also A. Marvaud, La 
Question Sociale en Espagne, pp. 176-180, and Unamuno in the Revista Cat6lica de 
las cuestiones sociales, December 1905. 

J (p. 1 1 6). Mr E. H. G. Dobby has kindly given me these figures, obtained by him 
from the engineers of the Bureau of Agrarian Reform, of the proportion of fallow 
(barbecho) to cereals in the year 1924: 

Andalusia 669/1412 New Castile 1268/1594 

Old Castile 904/1231 Extremadura 49^/745 

Catalonia 11 1/375 Basque Provinces 10/70 



130 THE AGRARIAN QUESTION 

Here we see that whereas in Andalusia land was usually sown twice in succession 
and then left for one year fallow, in New Castile a year of rest followed almost 
every crop. But clearly these figures are based upon only the good lands and dis 
regard those large areas of poor soil which are more irregularly cultivated. 

K (p. 120). In Valencia and Catalonia at this time agricultural wages rarely went 
below 4 pesetas (5 was the average) and rose to 8 in harvest. As crops were more 
varied, labour was less seasonal. Agricultural labourers generally had a strip of land 
which they cultivated themselves. In the Basque provinces wages never fell below 
5 pesetas and were sometimes 7 or 8. Only in the most favoured parts of Andalusia, 
close to the large towns, did they ever rise to 4 or 5. 

L (p. 120). The Report of the official enquiry of the Institute of Social Reforms 
published in 1905 gives agricultural wages in Andalusia as being on an average 
1-50 pesetas without food, sometimes descending to i-oo, but scarcely ever rising 
above 2-00. Women got much less. Working days did not on the average exceed 
280 in the year. (In 1930 they were well below 200.) In harvest the men worked 
from 15 to 1 6 hours. Quoted in A. Marvaud, La Question Sociale en Espagne, p. 136. 
Since then the cost of living has more than doubled itself, so that the labourer's 
wages in 1930 were slightly less than they used to be and his annual income, owing 
to greater unemployment, at least 30 per cent less. On the other hand the rancho> or 
food provided by the landlord when working away from their homes, has improved 
except in those two black areas the provinces of Seville and Cadiz. 

M (p. 121). See E. H. G. Dobby's 'Agrarian Problems in Spain 5 published in 
the Geographical Review of the American Geographical Society y April 1936. His 
visit to Andalusia took place in 1935, during the Lerroux-Gil Robles term of 
Government. 

N (p. 12 1). Yet once, one should not forget, under the operation of exactly the 
same causes (the breaking up of common lands and a high tariff on corn that made 
agriculture extremely profitable) the same terrible state of affairs prevailed in 
England. When prices fell in 1814, exactly as they did in 1930, the English village 
* did not contain a mass of decently paid labourers and a surplus of labourers, from 
time to time redundant, for whom the parish had to provide as best it could. It 
contained a mass of labourers, all of them underpaid, whom the parish had to keep 
alive in the way most convenient to farmers * (J. L. and B. Hammond, The Village 
Labourer, p. 174). In other words, the English landlords averted a revolution by 
pauperizing the peasants. This hypocritical prudence, parading as generosity, was 
alien to the character of the Spanish landlords. They preferred to double the number 
of the rural constabulary. But one may observe that in both cases the same assump 
tion was made that in order that the landlords might get high rents, the peasants 
must starve. 

O (p. 122). The idleness of the Andalusians is a pure legend. That observant 
traveller Joseph Townsend, rector of Pewsey in Wiltshire and a well-known 
savant, exposed it in 1787. Of Malaga he wrote : * The peasants of no country upon 
earth are more patient of heat, of hunger and of thirst, or capable of greater exertions 
than this very people who have been accused of indolence * (Journey through Spain 
in 1786-1787). He puts the idleness of Spaniards in other provinces down to bad 
government. 



Chapter VII 
THE ANARCHISTS 

I shall die and the worms will eat me, but I want our idea to triumph. 
I want the masses of humanity to be really emancipated from all 
authorities and from all heroes present and to come. BAKUNIN. 

Spanish Anarchism traces its origin to a Russian aristocrat, Michael 
Bakunin. In Herzen' s Memoirs we find a vivid account of this man. 
A giant in size, with the energy of ten ordinary men when roused, 
wildly exuberant and unmethodical in all his acts, living among a 
medley of unfinished articles, uncompleted plans, night-long Russian 
conversations and tea drinking that is the picture Herzen paints. 
The attractive side of his character stands out his generosity, his 
lack of malice that amounted to innocence, his simple and natural 
bearing with other men, but we are left with the impression of a 
student a Russian student too whom ten years of prison had done 
nothing to moderate. 

There were, however, depths in Bakunin's character which Herzen, 
a caustic and disillusioned exile, comfortably installed in London, did 
not appreciate. Bakunin was a man of action deprived of the power 
of action a natural leader of guerrilla bands or peasant revolts. But 
he was also a man of unusual sympathetic imagination. He had an 
instinctive understanding for certain primitive classes of people 
Russian and Italian peasants, brigands and outlaws of all sorts. Not 
only was he ready, like Garibaldi, to lead them at the barricades and to 
risk his life for them, but he felt a genuine respect and liking for their 
ideas and way of life. It was on just this feeling for simple and liberty- 
loving people that he founded his gospel, his vision of the future, 
which was to lead them, after many vicissitudes, to a heaven upon 

earth. 

The Anarchist movement in Europe is thus the product of Bakunin s 
imaginative insight into certain classes of human beings, coupled with 
a strong moral and revolutionary fervour. It has for this reason a 
directness, an immediate appeal which Marxism lacks and which was 
bound, wherever the conditions were appropriate, to bring it dis 
ciples. And it bears everywhere the original stamp of its founder. 
For whereas Godwin may be said to be the father of American Anar 
chism, an ultra-liberal doctrine suited to industrial countries with a 



132 THE ANARCHISTS 

middle-class standard of life, Bakunin is the creator of the peasant 
Anarchism of Southern and Eastern Europe. This is especially true of 
Spain, the only country where his ideas took root in a mass move 
ment. It is no exaggeration to say that, slight as the points of contact 
may seem to be, everything of importance in Spanish Anarchism goes 
back to him. 

In 1864, the year of the foundation of the International, Bakunin 
left Switzerland and settled in Naples. He was at that time a man of 
fifty, prematurely aged by his sufferings, but still with the enthusiasm 
and vitality of ten other men. His huge strength and height, his vivid 
personality, his romantic career made him the most celebrated revolu 
tionary of his time, the Garibaldi of Socialism, and disciples collected 
round him. But as yet he had not very much to teach them. By his 
imprisonment in the Czar's dungeons he had missed the long re 
actionary period that had followed the '48 and which had forced most 
revolutionaries to alter their methods, and he still lived among the 
ideas of his youth. In the north of Europe these ideas were now out of 
date. It was not till he went to Southern Italy with its revolutionary 
atmosphere of secret societies and Garibaldian insurrections that he 
saw how they could be adapted to modern conditions. Then his creed 
of anti-authoritarian collectivism, or, as it later came to be called, 
anarchism, took shape. Italian carbonarism, Proudhon's theories, 
the Slavophils* cult of the peasant and his own childish mania for 
secret revolutionary brotherhoods, all played their part. When he re 
turned to Geneva in 1867 his social philosophy was complete. 

The next four years (1868-1872) witness the struggle between the 
ideas of Marx and those of Bakunin for the control of the Inter 
national. The two points round which their disagreement turned were 
whether or not there should be participation in the political struggle, 
and whether the organization of the International should be cen 
tralized or federal. These points of tactics concealed, of course, deep 
divergences of aim and of conception, expressed at the time in the 
saying that whereas Marx wished to conquer political power for the 
proletariat, Bakunin wished the proletariat to destroy it. But we shall 
not understand the true nature of Spanish Anarchism unless we 
examine Bakunin's ideas at some length. 

Bakunin's social philosophy divides itself into three parts, his criti 
cism of the present capitalist age, his vision of the new anarchist (or, 
as he called it, collectivist) society and the methods by which he hoped 
this could be attained. As to the first, anarchism is a protest not 



THE ANARCHISTS 133 

merely against the inequalities in wealth of the present world, but 
against its tyranny. 'All exercise of authority ', wrote Bakunin, 'per 
verts and all submission to authority humiliates.' And the worst kind 
of authority is that of the State which is 'the most flagrant, most 
cynical and most complete denial of humanity because... every state, 
like every theology, assumes men to be fundamentally bad and wicked '. 
He therefore wishes to do away with it, putting in its place a free 
federal regime in which autonomous bodies (societies, groups or 
municipalities) contract voluntary pacts with one another. This was, 
of course, Proudhon's system. He also inveighs against the organi 
zation of modern industrial life by which men are made the slaves of 
machines and are cut off from the possibility of leading complete 
human lives. Liberty, absolute and complete liberty, is a necessity 
for everyone. 

Bakunin therefore wishes to destroy the State. And he wished to 
destroy God also. A passionate atheism runs through all his writings. 
God is the creation of men's slavish instincts and man will never be 
free until he has ceased to believe in him. For theology too assumes, 
just as does the State, that men are fundamentally bad and wicked and 
that they must be continually corrected and kept down. Here we 
come upon a rather important point of Bakunin' s system. It is often 
said that anarchism would never work because it assumes men to be 
naturally good. That, however, is not an assumption of Bakunin's. He 
merely believes them to be good enough to live in a free society, which 
of course would have its own ways of exercising pressure upon them. 
Every society produces men after its own likeness, and those of the 
present time are corrupted by the struggle for power and money. But 
human beings are very plastic and under a different system they would 
behave otherwise. In the new world imagined by Bakunin public 
opinion would be strong enough to deal with all infractions of its code 
without recourse to any central authority. The analogy is to the 
peasant village or primitive tribe, where justice, like everything else, is 
organized locally. 

We have seen that Bakunin laid the greatest stress upon liberty. 
But he does not mean what Liberals mean by that word. The Liberal 
or bourgeois theory of liberty, he declares, is derived from 'that vile 
book', Rousseau's Contrat Social The isolated individual with his 
desire for illimitable liberty is there imagined as coming together with 
other individuals and contracting to live in a society with them. Each 
agrees to give up that part of his natural inheritance of liberty which 



134 THE ANARCHISTS 

will conflict with the liberty of the others. Out of this contract, so the 
theory runs, has grown up in time the modem state with its laws and 
institutions and indeed every form of tyranny. But, says Bakunin, 
this contract is, historically speaking, a pure fiction. It was not in 
dividual men who by coming voluntarily together created society: on 
the contrary, since men are by nature social animals, it has always been 
society which created them. The concept of liberty is therefore un 
thinkable outside a community. Man cannot be free when he is alone. 
He can only be free when he lives in community with other free human 
beings, each of whom is earning his right to that freedom by work. 

*Je ne suis vraiment libre que lorsque tous les etres humams qui 
m'entourent, homines et femmes, sont egalement libres. La liberte 
d'autrui, loin d'etre une limite ou la negation de ma liberte, en est au 
contraire necessaire et la confirmation.' 1 

If this seems paradoxical, he adds, it is because people, thanks to 
their bourgeois up-bringing, are so accustomed to thinking in terms of 
the isolated individual that they do not realize that man only becomes 
a complete human being when living in a free society. The isolated 
individual is a fiction, but in so far as he exists he is necessarily a com 
pletely immoral creature, the personification of egoism. And Bakunin 
traces the responsibility for this attitude back through Descartes to the 
Christian notion of the immortal soul, which has produced a fatal 
split in the personality. Thus the chief cause of the evil of bourgeois 
society is that man has need of other men materially, but does not 
need them morally. That is why he exploits them. 

One will see from this that if Bakunin wishes to destroy the State, 
he compensates for it by attaching a new importance to society. For 
society is or should be the fluid in which men must live if they are to 
draw their proper nourishment. In the present bourgeois world men 
are starved without knowing it. He therefore maintains that a free 
society will necessarily create strong, open, outstanding men and 
accepts without fear a strengthening of those great conservative forces 
that govern societies custom and public opinion, which are good 
'because they are natural'. Something must be said about this word 
* natural*, for it is one of the keys to Bakunin's ideas. He was greatly 

1 Dieu et Vfitat (begun in November 1870 but left unfinished). See also Trots 
Conferences faites aux Ouvrurs du Val de Saint Imier (May 1871), Oeuvres, vol. v. 
These ideas are, I believe, to be found in Fichte. But that they were deeply rooted in 
Bakunin's personal experience is shown by a letter written to his family in 1831, 
when he was only seventeen, and by other letters written at intervals through his 
life. See Bakoumne, by H. E. Kaminski, p. 25. 



THE ANARCHISTS 135 

impressed by the growing artificiality of modern life, which he thought 
could only be arrested by some very deep transformation in the 
structure of society. And just as all artificiality in his eyes was bad, so 
all * nature' was good. That is why destruction plays so large a part in 
Bakunin's theories and planning for the future so little. (The passion 
for destruction, he once said, is also a creative passion.) He believed 
that if the State, and rule of force it stood for, could only be destroyed, 
with all those little compartments that separate men from one another, 
nature would cause new and better social organisms to arise to fill 
their place. He forgot, no doubt, that once just such a catastrophe 
occurred in Europe and that what grew up was not anarchism, but 
the horrible and cruel anarchy of the early feudal age. As we shall see 
later, there lies at the root of anarchism a fatal paradox. 

It should now be clear that the kind of life which Bakunin had in 
mind was the small peasant community as he had seen it in Russia. A 
few years later that other great anarchist, Kropotkin (who was also a 
Russian aristocrat), was to find historical precedents for his social 
theories in the village communities of the Middle Ages and even in 
Greek city life. That is to say, there is in anarchism a strong element 
of reaction against industrialism, of return (though without re 
nouncing the advantages of modern industrial processes) to the freer, 
more human life of the Middle Ages. It was with this in mind that 
Bakunin substituted for the idea of 'the masses', so dear to Marx's 
Germanic mind, that of the small group. For it was only in small 
groups, he thought, that a proper regard for human rights and human 
dignity could be found. In his remarks upon this, upon the respect 
that is due to every man, howevet stupid, however wicked or con 
temptible, simply because he is a man, one is at once reminded of 
mediaeval Christian teaching, which was based on the democratic 
theory of the equality of all souls in the eyes of God. Bakunin, whilst 
eliminating God, kept the same mystical equality of rights and indeed 
made it the kernel of his whole system. It led him to deny the validity 
of the Marxian dialectic and to insist that human needs and desires 
should always have precedence over economic laws. Nature for him 
was the nature of that semi-gregarious animal Man and not the 
general historic process. 

There remains to be considered the manner by which, according to 
Bakunin, the revolution would come and the form of organization 
best adapted to secure this. He had no faith in the revolutionary 
temper of the proletarian masses in the great industrial countries of 



136 THE ANARCHISTS 

the North. He foresaw that, as their material conditions improved, 
they would tend more and more to adopt bourgeois modes of life and 
thought. He relied rather upon the poor peasantry and town workers 
in countries such as Italy, Russia and Spain, where industrial develop 
ment was still very primitive. They alone would have sufficient spirit 
for revolutionary action. In this matter time has shown that Marx 
was wrong and Bakunin right. 

But though he liked to picture the coming revolution as the 'spon 
taneous uprising of an infuriated town mob or a peasant jacquerie', he 
knew that such events require leadership and preparation. For this he 
counted on a * phalanx 40,000 strong of young folk of the educated 
classes* that is to say, of the young men down from the universities 
who could not find jobs, school teachers, petit bourgeois^ declasses who 
'whether they know it or not belong to the Revolution'. These were, 
of course, the people who at that time were undermining the Czarist 
regime in Russia and working for the independence of Italy. Later it 
was they who would bring in Fascism. The underground action of 
these young folk would, he thought, stir up incessant revolts, strikes 
and acts of sabotage till, the temper of the whole people catching fire, 
a general rising would occur and the Government would fall. In this 
scheme of things there was no place for the legal intervention in the 
political struggle demanded by Marx. In Bakunin's eyes such action 
could only serve to destroy the revolutionary temper of the people ; 
besides, in the countries where his ideas were to take root, political 
intervention was impossible because the people had no votes. The 
development of Marx's programme was as impossible at that time in 
Russia, Italy and Spain as was that of Bakunin in England, Germany 
and Northern France. 

The quarrel, however, came over the question of the organization 
of the International. Marx wished to see the trade unions which sub 
scribed to it organized hierarchically and obedient to the orders of the 
General Council. If this could be done the labour movement through 
out the world would move solidly forward under one leadership. 
Bakunin's idea was different. According to him the General Council 
should be nothing more than a statistical bureau. The unions of 
workers that composed the International should be federated loosely 
together and the impetus to action should always come from below. 
Thus, not only would the International offer the same plan as the 
society of the future, but the local organizations would preserve that 
independence and spontaneity which, as Proudhon had taught, were 



THE ANARCHISTS 137 

so essential in all popular movements. However, something more was 
required to provide the necessary revolutionary fervour. To facilitate 
this Bakunin founded at Geneva in September 1868 among a few 
friends a secret revolutionary society, which he called the Alliance of 
Social Democracy. At the top of this were to be the Hundred Inter 
national Brothers (a secret society which he had already founded in 
skeleton form at Naples) whose 'only country was universal revolution 
and whose only enemy reaction'. Under these would be the national 
members, chosen among the most devoted and energetic leaders in 
the local federations. The function of this body, as he explained to one 
of his Spanish adherents, would be to act as ' a secret society in the 
heart of the International, to give it a revolutionary organization, to 
transform it and all the popular masses which exist outside it into a 
power sufficiently organized to destroy the politico-clerico-bourgeois 
reaction and the economic, juridic, religious and political institutions 
of the State'. 1 We shall see later, when we consider the development 
of Bakunin's ideas in Spain, that this combination of federations of 
working men, forming, in the Proudhonian language of the time, free 
pacts with one another, with a small secret revolutionary body that 
permeated and controlled them, has been the typical organization of 
Spanish Anarchism down to the present day. 

But events did not move exactly as Bakunin wished. When the 
Alliance of Social Democracy asked for permission to enter the Inter 
national, without abandoning either its programme or its organization, 
this request was refused by the General Council. The Alliance was 
therefore forced to dissolve itself only three months after its inaugura 
tion (December 1868). Or rather it pretended to dissolve itself the 
fact that it comprised at this time only a few dozen people, all members 
of Bakunin's intimate circle, making this dissimulation an easy matter. 
One of its local sections, however, that of Geneva, continued to exist 
in a non-secret form and was admitted to the International. 

The year 1868 is an important one in the history of the working- 
class movement. For the first time, at the Congress of Brussels that 
summer, the ideal of Communism (or, as it was then called, Collec- 

1 Letter of 21 May 1872 to Gonzalez Morago (Max Nettlau, La International y la 
Alianza en Espana). In an unfinished letter to Francisco Mora found among his 
papers Bakunin describes the Alliance as * a Society of brothers, solid to the death 
and whose only aim is to bring in the revolution It is in fact a religion, the re 
ligion of humanity * (op. at p. 97). In reality the Alliance had two distinct purposes : 
to maintain and direct the revolutionary instincts of the proletariat and to combat 
the ideas of Marx within the International. 



138 THE ANARCHISTS 

tivism) was accepted by the International. That is to say, the modera 
ting influences of French Proudhonism and of British trade unionism 
were defeated. Immediately after, as we have seen, Bakunin founded 
his own organization, the Alliance of Social Democracy. And at the 
same moment, in September, a revolution broke out in Spain. The 
Army, supported by practically the whole country, rose against Isa 
bella and drove her out, and the calling of a Constituent Assembly was 
announced for the spring. It was obvious that here was a situation 
which the International might take advantage of. Up to that time no 
revolutionary work had been done south of the Pyrenees. To European 
Socialists Spain was a terra incognita. Bakunin therefore suggested 
to his friend Elisee Reclus, afterwards the famous geographer, that he 
should go and spy out the country. Elisee was unable to go and sent 
his brother Elie instead, but it was to another person, an Italian 
engineer called Giuseppi Fanelli, whom Bakunin had met several 
years before at Naples and enrolled in his International Brotherhood, 
that the important mission of evangelizing Spain was entrusted. After 
some difficulty about raising the money for his railway fare, he left for 
Barcelona in October 1868. 

Up to this time Socialist ideas, properly speaking, were almost un 
known in Spain. There existed a strong and growing federal move 
ment, influenced by Proudhon, which will be described later. But 
this was a movement exclusively of the lower-middle classes and had 
no social implications that went beyond a benevolent radicalism. And 
it was definitely un-revolutionary. There was also a small band of 
Fourierists, of whom the best known was Fernando Garrido, the 
author of several voluminous books on social questions and the editor 
of a small Socialist newspaper in Madrid. It was he who had intro 
duced the Co-operatives to Spain. But this movement had made no 
headway except in a few places near Seville and in Catalonia. 
The trade union movement was also very backward. At Barcelona 
there existed two unions of cotton spinners, the rather conservative 
Federation de las Tres Clases de Cataluna, which at this time claimed 
6000 members out of a total factory population of 70,000, and the 
more aggressive Union Manufacturera, which was smaller. These 
were the only trade unions of any importance in the country and both 
were feebly led and organized. Strikes in factories were almost un 
known. The real area of working-class discontent lay in the country 
districts of the centre and south. Here the breaking up of the common 
lands had caused acute misery. In 1840, in 1855, in 1857, in 1861 and 
in 1865 there had been large peasant risings in Castile and Aragon and 



THE ANARCHISTS 139 

above all in Andalusia. That of 1857 nad been le ^ by a few students 
from Seville, who called themselves Socialists. Narvaez had en 
couraged it to mature and then drenched it in blood, shooting a 
hundred and sending many more to the penal settlements. Then in 
1861 a body of 10,000 peasants assembled secretly and occupied Loja 
near Granada as a protest against low wages and unemployment. It 
was a peaceable movement neither man nor property was injured 
and O'Donnell put it down with unwonted mildness; only six of the 
ringleaders were executed. But those starving and yet rebellious 
peasants, whose heroes were the brigands and whose bitter enemies 
were the rural constabulary set up by Narvaez, were clearly only 
waiting to hear of Bakunin's ideas to welcome them. 

Fanelli arrived at Barcelona and, being unable to make any contacts 
there, went on to Madrid. He had a letter of introduction to Fernando 
Garrido, who passed him on to one or two young men, typographers 
and printers, who frequented a working-class educational club called 
the Fomento de las Artes. They belonged to a group of federalists, who 
read Proudhon and Pi y Margall and took in the latter's paper La 
Discusion. None of them had so much as heard of the International. 
A small meeting was arranged so that Fanelli could address them upon 
it. One of the young men present, Anselmo Lorenzo, has given a 
vivid account of what followed. 

'Fanelli was a tall man with a kind and grave expression, a thick 
black beard and large black expressive eyes which flashed like light 
ning or took on the appearance of kindly compassion according to the 
sentiments which dominated him. His voice had a metallic tone and 
was susceptible to all the inflexions appropriate to what he was saying, 
passing rapidly from accents of anger and menace against tyrants and 
exploiters to take on those of suffering, regret and consolation, when 
he spoke of the pains of the exploited, either as one who without 
suffering them himself understands them, or as one who through his 
altruistic feelings delights in presenting an ultra-revolutionary ideal of 
peace and fraternity. He spoke in French and in Italian, but we could 
understand his expressive mimicry and follow his speech.' 

For except for Gonzalez Morago, 1 who knew a little French, not 

1 Tomds Gonzalez Morago was the first Spanish Anarchist. Anselmo Lorenzo 
gives a vivid account of him. His father was a Carlist and he was drawn to Anarchism 
because it seemed to him to realize the teachings of the Gospel. He had brilliant 
qualities (Malatesta considered him to be the greatest of Spanish Anarchists) but an 
unstable character which led him to spend whole days in bed in a state of depression. 
He never quite got over his religious feelings. He died of cholera in Granada gaol 
while still a young man. 



I^O THE ANARCHISTS 

one of those present understood a word of any foreign language and it 
had not occurred to them to bring an interpreter. Yet twenty years 
later Lorenzo could recall the very accent with which Fanelli had said, 
rolling his black eyes above his black beard, ' Cosa Orribile ! Spaven- 
tosa!' 1 

The conversion of all present was, needless to say, instantaneous. 
Spaniards had long been waiting for this moment. After three or four 
sessions and a few conversations in the cafe, Fanelli, whose money 
was running low, took the train to Barcelona. He left behind him 
copies of the statutes of the Alliance of Social Democracy, the rules of 
a Geneva working-class society, a few numbers of Herzen's Bell 
and various Swiss and Belgian newspapers, containing reports of 
speeches by Bakunin. These were the sacred texts on which the new 
movement was to be constructed. At Barcelona his success was 
repeated, but, his money again running short Bakunin had been 
unable to raise the few pounds needed he took the boat for Mar 
seilles. Within the space of less than three months, without knowing a 
word of Spanish or meeting more than an occasional Spaniard who 
understood his French or Italian, he had launched a movement that 
was to endure, with wave-like advances and recessions, for the next 
seventy years and to affect profoundly the destinies of Spain. 2 

The enthusiasm generated by Fanelli did not die down after his 
departure. The initiates at these marvellous Pentecostal scenes studied 
the texts he had left and at the end of a few weeks felt themselves ready 
to hold meetings of propaganda. Enthusiasm spread rapidly. The 
word was carried to Andalusia, where groups sprang up at Lora del 
Rio, Arahal and at Arcos de la Frontera in the province of Seville 
among the organizers of the new co-operative stores, and then at Cadiz 
and in all the small towns of the Lower Guadalquivir. Converts were 
made by the thousand. Those who went to the meetings came away 

1 Anselmo Lorenzo, El Proletariado Militante, vol. i. Before Fanelli left Madrid 
the whole group of twenty-one went to a photographer's and had their picture 
taken. This historic photograph has been reproduced in a little book by Federica 
Montseny, Anselmo Lorenzo, Barcelona, Ediciones Espanolas, 1938. 

1 Fanelli was by profession an architect and an engineer, but he had given up his 
career to work for the revolution. He had fought under Garibaldi and against the 
Pope and was one of Mazzini's emissaries. This led to his being elected deputy 
to the Italian Parliament. In 1866 he met Bakunin at Ischia, was converted to his 
ideas and became a member of the International Brotherhood. The Government 
gave him a pension of 97 lire a month as a compensation for having lost his health 
in a Bourbon prison, and as a deputy he had a free railway pass all over Italy. He 
therefore spent his time travelling about, preaching social revolution in the villages 
and returning at night to sleep in the train. He died in 1877 of consumption. 



THE ANARCHISTS 14! 

feeling that their eyes had suddenly been opened and that they now 
possessed the absolute truth upon every subject. This gave them a 
boundless self-confidence. They defied in open debate eminent 
Republican politicians such as Castelar, grave professors and econo 
mists, and patriarchal Socialists like Garrido: they intervened on 
every possible occasion in discussions on sociology, economics and 
jurisprudence. And, if one is to believe their newspapers, they 
invariably emerged victorious, leaving their opponents speechless and 
dumbfounded. 1 

A well-known writer on Socialism, the Baron de Laveleye, has left 
an account of one of their assemblies at Barcelona: * Visiting Spain in 
1869 I was present at several of the meetings of these socialist clubs. 
They generally took place in disused churches. From the pulpits the 
orators attacked everything that had once been exalted there: God, 
religion, priests, riches. Many women were present, sitting on the 
ground, knitting and suckling their children, as if it were a real 
sermon. It was indeed the image of '93. J2 

Yet perhaps the Baron was not quite correct in his comparison. As 
we shall see later, this atmosphere of intense emotionalism, half 
denunciation of the evils of the capitalist world and half messianic 
expectation of immediate bliss to come, has remained typical of 
Anarchist assemblies almost down to the present time, but what they 
have suggested to modern observers has been an American revivalist 
meeting. 

The class from which the 'internationalists', as they were called at 
that time, were recruited was not, as one might at first suppose, the 
proletariat. Among the hundred or so militants of the next few years 
one can scarcely find the name of a single labourer or factory hand. 
Artisans of various kinds, especially typesetters and cobblers, formed 
the principal adherents, to which one must add a schoolmaster or two 
and an occasional student from the Andalusian universities. The poor 
city workers and peasants, those * solid barbarian elements' on whose 

1 Whilst the Regional Congress at Cordova was sitting, this announcement was 
pasted up on the walls: 'RETO. Challenge. The Delegates of the Third Congress 
of the Federacidn Espanola de la A. /. T. challenge to public controversy all who 
desire to combat the fundamental principles of the International. Therefore to-day, 
i January 1873, there will take place a large public assembly at seven in the evening 
in the upstairs saloon of the Cafe* del Recreo. Workers of Cordova, do not fail to 
attend ! Defenders of Privilege, accept the challenge 1 Salud, Anarqufa y Colecti- 
vismo ! ' Since none of the defenders of privilege took up the challenge, the workers 
knew that their case was unanswerable. (Dfaz del Moral, C6rdoba> pp. 101-103.) 

2 de Laveleye, Le Socialisme Contemporain, p. 270. 



142 THE ANARCHISTS 

* elemental anger 5 Bakunin counted to bring in the revolution, did not 
come forward. 1 

This was indeed characteristic of the early Anarchist movement 
everywhere. In the Swiss Jura, for example, which for the next 
twelve years was the principal centre of Bakunin's ideas in Europe, 
the members of the federations were watchmakers who worked not in 
factories but in their own homes. In Italy it was the artisans and the 
students who transferred their aspirations to the International after 
the termination of the Risorgimento. But in Spain it was clear that 
anarchism could only have a future if it became a genuine working- 
class movement. The comparative failure of the International at 
Barcelona was therefore disappointing. It was found that although 
several of the Catalan trade unions were ready to join it to obtain its 
moral support, the workmen themselves were too apathetic and too 
uneducated to be interested in the general aim. The group founded by 
Fanelli had actually to conceal their opinions when they organized a 
federation of workmen's unions, and the paper they founded, La 
Federation, simply supported the Federal Republican programme. It 
was left to Madrid, where there was no proletarian following, to 
maintain the pure essence of Bakuninist doctrine in its two papers 
Solidaridad and (later) El Condenado? 

But this was in fact a situation which had been foreseen by Bakunin. 
He had envisaged a small secret society, the Alliance of Social Demo 
cracy, made up of determined Anarchists and controlling a loose 
federation of peasants' and workers' trade unions. Unfortunately, by 
a mistake of Fanelli' s, the International (that is, the whole federation) 
had been set up in Spain with the more advanced programme of the 
Alliance and it was not till the spring of 1870 that it was possible to 
rectify this. Then a Spanish Alliance of Social Democracy, indepen 
dent of the old Genevan organization, but with the same programme, 
was founded. This programme ('in politics anarchist, in economy 
collectivist, in religion atheist') contained among other things the 

1 See Note A on p. 1 66 at end of chapter. 

2 Some at least of the early Anarchists felt the apparent contradiction of revolu 
tionary theory with actual facts. * Few indeed ', wrote Lorenzo, * of the workers with 
their hopeless ignorance and consequent lack of will power were able to play the part 
that revolutionary theory expected of them' (El Proletariado Militante, vol. n, 
p. 80). Even in the Andalusian country-side, where discontent was very great and 
where they could build upon the federalist movement, the result was disappointing. 
For the ignorance was worse than ever in the south. At the Regional Congress at 
Cordova in 1872 it was found that for the proper working of the various local and 
trade federations some 7000 delegates would be required who must be able to read. 
But only a fraction of such a number could be found. 



THE ANARCHISTS 143 

express stipulation that it would refuse to take part in any revolu 
tionary activity which 'had not for its object the immediate and direct 
triumph of the workers' cause'. 1 

The first act of this body was to summon a general congress. This 
met in June 1870 in the Ateneo Obrero at Barcelona 'in a regime of 
liberty for each to think as he pleased'. Ninety delegates representing 
150 societies in thirty-six different localities came together 2 and con 
stituted themselves the Spanish Regional Federation of the Inter 
national, adopting as their statutes those of the Jura Federation which 
had been drawn up by Bakunin. The agenda had been carefully pre 
pared by the members of the Alliance of Social Democracy and the 
opening speech by Farga Pellicer left no doubt as to the direction to 
be followed: 'We wish', he said, 'the rule of Capital, State and 
Church to cease and to construct upon their ruins Anarchy, the free 
federation of free associations of free workers.' The Congress was a 
success and led to an expansion of the International. The uncertainty 
of the political situation and the apparent inability of the Constituent 
Cortes to find a prince willing to ascend the vacant throne was pro 
viding a favourable ground for the spread of anarchist ideas. All 
over Spain the animosity between rich and poor was increasing. 

But a rift was opening within the ranks of the International itself. 
The dissensions between Marx and Bakunin which had first shown 
themselves at the Congress of Basle in 1869 came to a head at the 
Conference of London in September 1871. The questions at issue 
were whether or not there should be participation in the political 
struggle and what the form of organization should be. As we have 
seen, there was a close association between this and the form desired 
for the future society. A dec** .Ion on these matters could not be post 
poned any longer and when the Conference broke up after stormy 
discussions it was obvious that a split had become inevitable. This 
struggle had its reflection in Spain. The Marxian party there was 
known as the Autoritarios ('Authoritarians') and, though numerically 
insignificant, it contained some of the best men in the International. 
It ran a paper, La Emancipation, in Madrid and had a certain following 
in Castile and in Granada. Whereas the Bakuninists called themselves 
'Collectivists', they proclaimed themselves 'Communists'. 

The struggle became acute after the arrival in Madrid of Paul 

1 See Note B on p. 167 at end of chapter. 

2 These societies or unions contained some 40,000 workers, but it must be 
remembered that by no means all of them had affiliated themselves to the Inter 
national. Two-thirds of the delegates represented Catalan unions. 



144 THE ANARCHISTS 

Laf argue, Marx's son-in-law, in December 1871. He appeared in 
disguise, a refugee from the Paris Commune. His London connec 
tions and the fact that he spoke fluent Spanish (he had been brought 
up in Cuba) made him the natural representative of the General 
Council in Spain. 1 His first move was successful. He attacked the 
Alliance of Social Democracy on the ground of its secrecy (secret 
organizations within the International had been forbidden by the 
London Conference) and pressed it so hard that it was obliged to dissolve 
itself. To prevent it from forming again, La Emancipation published 
the names of its members, without considering the use that would be 
made of this information by the police. The Bakuninists retaliated by 
expelling the Autoritarios, who then formed a federation of their own 
at Madrid. The end came a month or two later at the Hague Congress 
(September 1872), when Marx, after obtaining the expulsion of 
Bakunin and his associates from the International, transferred the 
General Council to New York. Rather than allow the organization he 
had created to be captured by the enemy, he destroyed it. 

A fortnight later the expelled members met at Saint Imier in 
the Swiss Jura. Switzerland, Spain and Italy stood behind Bakunin. 
Belgium was divided. In France the repression that followed the 
Commune prevented any expression of opinion. The resolutions 
drawn up by Bakunin and embodying his views were carried unani 
mously. In the place of the Marxist International there had come into 
existence a purely Bakuninist International, with its centre among the 
small watchmakers of the Jura and the bulk of its members spread out 
along the Mediterranean. 

These developments in Europe produced immediate repercussions 
in Spain. The Spanish delegates at Saint Imier, Gonzalez Morago and 
Farga Pellicer, fresh from long conversations with Bakunin, hastened 
to call a congress in which the aims of the anarchist (or rather 

1 Marx had a poor opinion of Lafargue he called him * the Gascon * and it was 
through Engels that contact was maintained with Spain. Extracts from their 
correspondence together with some letters by Jose" Mesa, the leading figure among 
the Autoritarios, have been published by Max Nettlau in Documentos Ineditos, etc. 
Engels' view of the struggle is given in Die Bakunisten an der Arbeit. For the other 
side of ^the story one must read James Guillaume, V Internationale, Documents et 
Souvenirs. 

Engels' view, which history might seem to have justified, was that Spanish work 
men and Spanish industry were both so backward that they were not ready for 
revolution, but must pass through a republican stage first. For this it was necessary 
that they should vote. Where Engels was wrong, however, was in thinking that such 
a programme could possibly appeal to Spanish peasants and workmen at that time. 
They knew how the elections were managed. 



THE ANARCHISTS 145 

anarchising) International should be reaffirmed. It met on Boxing 
Day 1872 in the Teatro Moratin at Cordova. Fifty-four delegates, 
representing 20,000 members in 236 local federations and 516 trade 
unions, were present. 1 The resolutions that had been passed at the 
Congress of Saint Imier were unanimously approved and the neces 
sary measures voted to put them in practice. Thus there came into 
existence for the first time in Spain an organization of a purely 
anarchist type. The local and trade sections which composed the 
federation were declared to be 'sovereignly independent sections', 
free at any moment to denounce their adherence to the federation. 
The centralized federal council was transformed into 'a bureau of 
correspondence and statistics', without any authority. Cohesion was 
maintained by the close personal relationships between the leaders, 
the former members of the Alliance of Social Democracy, which 
continued to exist in fact though not in name after its formal dis 
solution. The Congress of Cordova, acting under the immediate 
influence of Bakunin, had created the typical organization of Spanish 
anarchism. 

We may pause for a moment to consider how eminently suited this 
organization was to Spanish conditions. The first need was to get hold 
of the half-starving, uneducated field labourers and factory workmen 
and to fill them with a consciousness of their own grievances and their 
own power. These men could not, as a rule, afford to pay a regular 
subscription and they were suspicious of any influence from outside 
which might embroil them with their employers. Any regular trade- 
union organization with a paid secretariat, acting on orders from 
Barcelona or Madrid and leading its adherents like a bourgeois Repub 
lican party to the polling booths, would have been doomed to failure. 
But the Anarchist leaders were never paid in 1936, when their trade 
union, the C.N.T., contained over a million members, it had only one 
paid secretary. Travelling about from place to place, on foot or mule 
back or on the hard seats of third-class railway carriages, or even like 
tramps or ambulant bullfighters under the tarpaulins of goods wagons, 

1 According to El Condenado, No. 36 of 2 January 1873, the Regional Federation 
immediately after the Congress could claim 45,633 members, of whom 27,894 were 
Andalusians. Many local federations which had held back because they did not 
wish to take sides in the quarrel between the Bakuninists and the Marxists joined 
afterwards. Resolutions were passed demanding the immediate introduction of 
universal education, the eight-hour day and improved sanitation in factories. This, 
as we shall see, was simply the programme of Pi y Margall's Federals. The manifesto 
issued by the Congress ended with the slogan : Viva la Liquidaci6n Social! Viva la 
International! Salud, Solidaridad, Anarquia y Colectivismo! 



146 THE ANARCHISTS 

whilst they organized new groups or carried on propagandist cam 
paigns, these 'apostles of the idea', as they were called, lived like 
mendicant friars on the hospitality of the more prosperous work 
men. 

Their first object was simply to enrol groups of poor workers, what 
ever their political or religious opinions might be, for mutual protec 
tion against employers: now and then there would be a small strike, 
which, if it was successful, would at once double the membership 
of the section and lead to other small strikes in neighbouring districts. 
Then gradually the leaders would unfold their anarchist creed with 
its hatred of the Church, its wild idealism, its generous and humane 
outlook, and the imagination of the hearers would be kindled. Thus 
it happened that, at moments of enthusiasm, the number of the 
workers controlled by the Anarchists would double and treble them 
selves and, when the inevitable reaction came, would shrink back to a 
small kernel of convinced militants. This plasticity of the Anarchist 
movement enabled it to survive persecutions and, as soon as they were 
over, to reappear stronger than ever. 

There is another characteristic of Spanish anarchism that goes back 
to the Cordova Congress. That is that all movements towards strikes 
or revolutionary action that develop in it come from below. What 
occurs is this. At some critical moment, let us say, a congress of 
Spanish federations Is called to consider the possibility of revolution 
ary action. The delegates of each district will arrive at the as 
sembly with a full knowledge of the wishes and capacities of the 
groups of workmen they represent. Each will get up and say what 
the men of his province or factory are able and prepared to do. No 
district will be urged to take any action for which it does not feel 
itself morally and materially prepared. This freedom of choice has 
certainly acted often to the advantage of the Government, who have 
been able to suppress anarchist movements at their leisure in one 
province after another. But, at all events until the outbreak of the 
Civil War, its merits have more than counterbalanced its defects. The 
fact that no group has ever been over-ruled by another group or has 
had pressure put on it to act against its private convictions, but only in 
accordance with its own measure of enthusiasm and the number of 
arms it has been able to collect, has meant that the anarchists have 
been able to suffer defeat after defeat and yet rise again stronger than 
ever. If no other European party has shown such resistance, that is 
because the Spanish Anarchists have insisted upon basing their move- 



THE ANARCHISTS 147 

ment upon the free and unfettered impulses of their adherents, 
organized in local groups, and have not allowed themselves to become 
enmeshed in the deadening and life-destroying net of a party bureau 
cracy. 

A few weeks after the conclusion of the Congress of Cordova, King 
Amadeo resigned from the Spanish throne and left the country. 
Elections were held in May and owing to the abstention of the other 
parties a Republican majority was returned. The Cortes that met on 
i June 1873 lost no time in proclaiming a Republic. It was clear from 
the first that the new Republic would have a federal rather than a 
centralized constitution and, in fact, after a few weeks hesitation, 
Francisco Pi y Margall, the leader of the Federal Party, was elected 
president. A period of great expansion and activity opened for the 
International in Spain. But the Federal movement is of such impor 
tance for the history of Anarchism, and indeed for the history of 
modern Spain in general, that it will be necessary to say something 
about it. 

The French Revolution, by the destruction of so many local in 
terests and privileges, completed the work of Louis XIV and gave 
France a powerful and highly centralized administration. The Liberal 
Revolution in Spain, as we have already seen, imitated it. In both 
countries a reaction towards a greater local and municipal liberty was 
inevitable. In France this reaction was best expressed by Proudhon, 
who put forward those ideas which, he believed, the French Revolu 
tion had come into existence to fulfil, but from which it had been 
diverted by the ruthless political action of the Jacobins. In Spain, 
with its intense provincial feelings and local patriotisms, one would 
have expected the movement towards decentralization to be even 
stronger, but owing to the prostration of the country after the Napo 
leonic Wars and to the fact that Carlism drew into its own ranks many 
of the forces of resistance to Liberal centralism, these feelings did not 
for some time make their appearance among Left-wing parties. In 
deed, but for the persistent preaching and writing of one man, it is 
possible that they would never have done so. 1 

1 The first Spanish federal seems to have been Rarn<5n Xauradd y Fdbregas, a 
Catalan, who began to preach Republicanism in 1820. In his Bases de una Consti- 
tucidn Politico., published in 1832, he advocated a federal republic. He was shot in 
1837, after a rising in Barcelona. Then, according to Ramon de la Sagra (Les Partis 
en Espagne), a small anarchist and federalist group appeared at Santiago in Galicia in 
the early forties. Soon after, La Sagra and Antolin Faraldo were editing a federalist 
and socialist paper called El Porvenir. It was suppressed by Narvdez in 1845. 



148 THE ANARCHISTS 

Pi y Margall was a Catalan of lower-middle class family who com 
bined a small post in a Madrid bank with occasional journalism and 
writing books upon art. But his true bent was social and political, and 
a reading of Proudhon (who at that time was quite unknown in Spain) 
showed him the way he was to go. He saw how exactly this French 
man's ideas were suited to the aspirations of his countrymen and sat 
down to work out a political system that would meet their case. In 
1854, a few weeks after General O'DonnelFs successful pronun- 
ciamiento against Isabella's camarilla governments, his first book, La 
Reaction y la Revolution, came out. In spite of the haste in which it 
had been written and the superficial nature of many of its ideas, it 
constitutes a landmark in the history of Spanish political thought. 

Its principal theme is the iniquity of power. Spain, it must be 
remembered, had been governed for two generations by force in its 
most brutal form the general with his disorderly soldiers or militia, 
the guerrilla leader who was little better than a bandit and the firing 
squad. Pi y Margall finds this wicked and absurd. 'Every man who 
has power over another is a tyrant.' Discussing the meaning of 
'order' that word which for more than a hundred years had been the 
excuse for every act of violence and injustice he says that true order 
cannot be obtained by applying force. 

* Order supposes arrangement, harmony, convergence of all indivi 
dual and social elements : order refuses all humiliations and sacrifices. 
Can you call order that fictitious peace which you obtain by cutting 
with the sword all that you are too stupid to organize with your limited 
intelligence?... True order, let me tell you, has never existed and will 
never exist so long as you make such efforts to obtain it, because true 
order supposes cohesion, yet not a cohesion obtained by the presence 
of exterior causes, but an intimate and spontaneous cohesion which 
you with all your restrictions inevitably inhibit.' 1 

This indictment of the Spanish governing classes has been repeated 
in our own times by Ortega y Gasset. Its truth is only too obvious. 
The troubles of Spain come from the belief, shared by almost every 
element in the country, in violent remedies. Even the Anarchists, who 
hold of course the same views on power, believe in the necessity for 
one supreme act of violence to end all violence. But Pi y Margall was 
always logical. He refused to use any means but persuasion and 
believed that, if he were able to form a government, he could carry out 
the desired state of affairs by gradual reforms. 

1 La Reacd6ny La Revolucidn, 1854, p. 153. 



THE ANARCHISTS 149 

' Since I cannot do without the system of votes, I shall universalize 
suffrage. Since I cannot do without supreme magistrates I shall make 
them as far as possible changeable. I shall divide and subdivide 
power, I shall make it changeable and will go on destroying it.' 1 In 
the place of the power thus destroyed there would grow up a system of 
pacts between free groups and free individuals. 

Pi's views, as expressed in this book, were of course pure anar 
chism. 2 The only thing that divided him from Bakunin was his 
reformism. And indeed he is regarded to-day by Spanish Anarchists 
as one of their saints. But after the failure of the 1854 Revolution Pi's 
ideas began, like Proudhon's, to take on a more moderate and a more 
purely political shape. He became the leader of the new Federal 
movement, which aimed at covering only the first lap of the long 
anarchist road. 

This Federal movement, which first appears in the early sixties, 
grew up as a protest against the failure of the 1854 Revolution and the 
loss of everything that had been gained then. In his Programme of 
Manzanares General O'Donnell had demanded decentralization of 
local government, electoral reform, a free press and, most significant 
of all, the formation of a national militia which should guard these 
privileges against the encroachment of the caciques. The success of 
his pronunciamiento had been assured by a rising of the people in 
Madrid and through all the towns of Southern and Eastern Spain, 
and their sentiments had been shown by lynchings of the recently 
established political police and by demonstrations against the Church 
and against conscription. In the Cortes elected that autumn there 
were twenty-three Republicans. 

But the generals, who, like the politicians of a later date, were 
merely corrupt and ambitious, moved to the Right as soon as they 
were in power, and in 1856 Narvaez suppressed the national militia 
after some street fighting and initiated a period of severe repression. 
It was then that the federal idea began to grow. 

The reasons for its popularity in Spain at this time are not far to 
seek. Federalism was first of all an expression of the Spanish devotion 
to thepatria chica and a protest against the strongly centralizing policy 

1 Op. dt. p. 196. 

2 ' Revolution. . . is the idea of justice It divides power quantitatively, not 

qualitatively as our constitutionalists do It is atheist in religion and anarchist in 

politics: anarchist in the sense that it considers power as a very passing necessity: 
atheist in that it recognizes no religion, because it recognizes them all' (op, cit. 
p. 190). The atheism came from Proudhon and was silently dropped later. 



150 THE ANARCHISTS 

of the 'liberal' regime. 1 This desire for devolution was shared by its 
enemy Carlism. But it was also a protest against the autocratic and 
oppressive rule of these governments, which was only possible so long 
as they could arrange the elections as they pleased. They needed for 
this a highly centralized administration. Federalism, therefore, was 
regarded as the system best designed to preserve the rights of muni 
cipalities and to destroy the cacique. And there was the French 
influence. Ever since Louis XIV had said that there were to be no 
more Pyrenees, Spanish politics, both of the Right and of the Left, 
has followed with an exaggeration and a superficiality that are all its 
own the lead of France. And in France, as we have seen, the federal 
tendencies in the young Socialist movement were vigorous. Indeed it 
was Pi y MargalTs translation of Proudhon's Du Principe Federatifin 
1868, a few weeks before the September Revolution which drove out 
Isabella, that gave the Spanish federals the theoretic background they 
needed. 

From this moment enthusiasm for a federal republic grew rapidly. 
The petite bourgeoisie, who from 1840 to 1934 have been the revolu 
tionary class par excellence in Spain, accepted it as their programme. 
The advocates of a centralized republic, like those of State socialism, 
lost their supporters. The workers gave it their enthusiastic adherence. 
By the time that the constitutional monarchy, which was the solution 
of the liberal bourgeoisie^ began to crack, it was obvious that a federal 
republic would take its place. Thus it came about that in June 1873 
Pi y Margall, a little, timid but almost pedantically well-intentioned 
and honest man, found himself at the head of the Spanish State. 

The federal programme which was now to be applied to the most 
unruly and divided nation in Europe consisted in the main of a plan of 
extreme decentralization: the country was to be cut up into eleven 
autonomous cantons: these cantons were to be divided into free 
municipalities, and the whole bound together by voluntary pacts. 2 

1 * Federalism is a system by which diverse human groups, without losing their 
peculiar and particular autonomy, are associated and subordinated in conjunction 
with those of their kind for all common ends It is moreover the form of organi 
zation most suited to the character of our country, a nation made up of provinces 
which once were independent kingdoms and which even to-day are deeply divided 
by their separate laws and customs. Thus, in all the great crises through which this 
nation has passed since the beginning of the century, the first thing that has hap 
pened has been that the provinces have sought their safety and force within them 
selves, without losing from view the essential unity of the whole country* (Pi y 
Margall, Las Nadonalidades, 1882). 

2 The correct term was * synallagmatic, commutative and bilateral pacts '. * By a 
federal government we understand a government founded on alliance. These 



THE ANARCHISTS 151 

There was to be a Central Cortes, elected by universal suffrage, but, 
once the Constitution had been established, it would lose much of its 
authority. Conscription was to be abolished, Church and State to be 
separated and free compulsory education to be provided for all. The 
social legislation included an eight-hour day, state inspection of fac 
tories and regulations to control women's and children's work. There 
was also an agrarian programme, which specified the expropriation of 
uncultivated lands and the establishment on them of communities of 
peasants. Agrarian credit banks were to be set up and all short-term 
leases changed to an enfiteusis perpetua which should be redeemable at 
a fixed rate. But these social reforms never got beyond the stage of 
vague projects, nor was it decided how pressure would be brought to 
bear upon the autonomous cantons and municipalities, if they should 
refuse to. carry out the reforms voted by the Cortes. For Pi y MargalPs 
federal experiment lasted a bare two months and then collapsed in 
civil war and disorder. 

The causes of this failure were various. In the first place the Carlist 
War, which had been simmering for some time on the passes of the 
Pyrenees, broke out with violence. This made it impossible for the 
Federals to disband the Army and to abolish military service. Since 
it was this promise which had given the Republic its popularity among 
the working classes, the disillusion was great. 1 Then that defect of all 
newly formed Spanish parties, the lack of men to fill the administrative 
posts, made its appearance. The Federals were recruited from the 
lower-middle classes, and the ministers, governors and soldiers whom 
it threw up were either incompetent or else were unscrupulous men 
who had joined the party for what they could get out of it. Finally, 
the provinces decided not to wait for the Cortes to pass the Federal 

alliances are contracts for whose formation it is necessary that there exist con 
tracting parties with sufficient power or capacity to make a contract. If those who 
celebrate the contract are towns or states, the capacity to contract is the sovereignty: 
from this is deduced the fact that the federal contract can only be celebrated by 
sovereign peoples ' {Idea Exacta de la Federacidn por el Director del Estado Catalan^ 
1873. Quoted by J. A. Brandt, Toward the New Spain, 1933). 

In Spain nothing is ever new: the various provincial juntas that sprang up during 
the war against Napoleon all proclaimed their absolute sovereignty. 

1 The previous decade had seen a series of colonial adventures in various parts of 
the world which had made military service, las quintas, intensely unpopular. A 
copla of this time expresses this : 

Si la Republica viene no habrd quintas en Espana 
Por eso aqui hasta la Virgen se vuelve Republicana. 

As the Spanish working classes had never yet found anything that appealed to them 
in even a revolutionary political programme, their disappointment was all the more 
acute. 



152 THE ANARCHISTS 

Constitution, but proceeded to set up independent cantons on their 
own account. With typically Iberian impatience they revolted, and the 
authority of the Government ceased to exist for a time in the east and 
south. 

We must examine briefly the character of this, as it is called, 
Cantonalist movement. Its leaders were ambitious soldiers and local 
politicians : their forces were the depleted regiments under their com 
mand and the local Republican militia known as the Voluntaries de la 
Libertad. The incentive was, to some extent, the Paris Commune, 
where, it will be remembered, the leading part had been played by the 
Garde Nationale. The movement broke out almost simultaneously in 
Malaga, Seville, Granada, Cartagena and Valencia: Federals obtained 
possession of these cities and declared them to be sovereignly indepen 
dent cantons: committees of public safety took over the duties of the 
Governor. A movement of similar character broke out in Barcelona. 

The feeling that rises most quickly to the surface in every Spanish 
revolution is anti-clericalism. For all the evils of the times the priests 
and monks are made the scapegoat. The Cantonalist movement was 
no exception to this. At Barcelona the churches were closed for 
several months. The militia turned one into a barracks and public 
dances were given in another. Priests could not go about the streets in 
their robes. At Seville the Cantonalists declared that the cathedral 
would be converted into a cafe. Taxes were levied on the rich and in 
some towns a few houses were burned. In the country districts the 
villagers took advantage of the general anarchy to proclaim the com 
plete independence of their villages and to divide up the large estates 
or common lands. As the police wisely withdrew to their barracks, 
these ceremonies usually passed off quietly and without loss of life. It 
was only in one or two places, where resistance was offered by the 
landowners, that serious incidents took place. As one would expect, 
the movement collapsed as soon as the Government showed that it 
was ready to use force. In July General Pavia entered Seville with a 
handful of troops, and by a mixture of tact and firmness restored order 
in Andalusia. The Cantonalist leaders retired to Cartagena, where they 
defended themselves for four months. By the time the long siege was 
over, in January 1874, the Cortes had been dissolved by the Captain- 
General of Madrid and the Republic had ceased, except in name, to 
exist. 

But what part was played by the International in these chaotic 
events ? As we have seen, a Congress had been held at Cordova in the 



THE ANARCHISTS 153 

last days of 1872 and had been followed by a great increase in the 
number of members, especially in the small towns of Andalusia. The 
accession to power of the Federals during the summer of 1873 was 
naturally favourable to it. On the surface, at all events, the similarity 
of their programmes was very striking. c We wish', says one of the 
resolutions adopted at the Cordova Congress, f to build on the ruins of 
national unity free and independent municipalities bound only by 
federal pacts'. 1 But this identity of aims on the purely political issue 
could not conceal wide differences upon the social. The intentions of 
the Federals towards the working class did not go beyond a more or 
less sincere radicalism, whilst the followers of Bakunin were bound in 
the most specific terms to have no dealings with bourgeois political 
parties and to spurn all compromises in their advance towards social 
revolution. Yet the agreement was sufficiently great for the question 
of whether or not they should co-operate to invite serious considera 
tion. Everyone knew that the Internationalists had fought alongside 
the Garde Nationale (who were not even Federals) in the Paris 
Commune. 

The decision arrived at was highly characteristic. The Internationa 
lists refused to give any general support to the Federalist movement, 
but they raised no objection to their local groups or individual 
members co-operating with it. That is to say, they were ready to get 
any advantage they could out of it for themselves without compro 
mising either their principles or their freedom of action. 2 And when 
one examines the records of the Cantonalist risings one is struck 
by the very small part the International played in them. At Valencia 
they came out because the Governor had imprisoned some of their 
members an early example of the famous anarchist solidarity. At 
Granada two of them sat on the Committee of Public Safety. (The 
effect of this was so to terrify the bourgeoisie that the Canton collapsed 

1 A. Marvaud, La Question Sociale en Espagne, p. 36. This had also been the 
language of the Internationalist groups in the Paris Commune. And on 21 October 
1868 the Central Committee of the International of Geneva had issued a manifesto 
calling upon the Spanish people to * proclaim a Federal Republic the only form of 
government that, transitorially and as a means of arriving at a social organization 
based on justice, offers serious guarantees of popular liberty*. 

But as the conflict with Marx developed, the a-politicism of the Bakuninists 
became more pronounced. The final attitude of refusal to co-operate with any 
political party was fixed at the Congress of Saint Imier in 1872 in a resolution 
written by Bakunin himself and accepted by the Federal Congress at Cordova a few 
months later (see Guillaume, U Internationale > vol. in, p. 8 for the text of this). This 
must be considered the fundamental doctrine of Spanish Anarchism. 

2 See Note C on p. 167 at end of chapter. 



154 THE ANARCHISTS 

at once.) Only at one or two small towns, where they had a following 
of factory hands, did they do anything on their own account. It may 
be worth while to describe what happened at one of these, because it 
provides the first example of the Red atrocity story that was to be 
brought up with monotonous regularity whenever the middle classes 
felt their position to be threatened. 

Alcoy is a small town between Valencia and Alicante which manu 
factures paper. It is a historic industry paper has been made here 
since the eleventh century and in 1873 the factories employed 8000 
hands. Under the influence of a school teacher called Albarracin, who 
had been converted to anarchism, they decided to give Spain its first 
example of a general strike. The object of the strike was, in accordance 
with the resolutions of the Regional Congress at Cordova, an eight- 
hour day. The men came out and began to negotiate with the owners. 
Whilst they were doing so the municipality intervened, taking, as one 
would expect, the owners' side. The workmen at once sent a deputa 
tion to demand the resignation of the alcalde, who, as they declared, 
had broken his promise to remain neutral. Bands of workmen began 
to march up and down the street in front of the town hall till the 
police, losing their heads as in Spain they usually do, fired a volley. 
A fight began which lasted twenty hours. During the fight some 
dozen people were killed on each side. The workmen were in the end 
victorious and as a sign of their victory they burned several factories 
and houses, shot the offending mayor and, more hispanico, cut off his 
head and those of the police who had been killed in the fight and 
paraded them round the town. 

The events at Alcoy produced an enormous sensation. For the 
first time a group which did not belong either to the Church, the 
Army or the middle classes had become revolutionary. The whole 
press came out with stories of people thrown alive from balconies, 
women violated, priests crucified, men soaked in petrol and set on 
fire. 1 Even the Republican papers joined in. Such was the fear 
inspired by the working classes and by their new dreaded organization 
the International! 2 

1 See Note D on p. 1 67 at end of chapter. 

2 The fear was worked up artificially by the Carlists, who brought out two 
pseudo-anarchist papers, El Petroleo and Los Descamisados, which filled their 
columns with crude invocations to the people to rise and murder the bourgeois 
and burn their property. J. J. Morato gives some amusing extracts from these. 
Under the vignette on the front page of Los Descamisados was written: '900,000 
heads ! Let us tear the vault of heaven as though it were a paper roof! Property is 
theft I Complete, utter social equality ! Free Love 1 ' whilst the first number con- 



THE ANARCHISTS 155 

The days of this International in Spain were now drawing to a close. 
But their last months were the most glorious. In Europe most people 
attributed to them the success of the Cantonalist rising. Everywhere 
except in Spain reaction reigned and the only live revolutionary 
force seemed to be Anarchism. In Bngels 5 correspondence one sees 
how bitter was his jealousy and how great his delight when, with the 
disappearance of the Republic, the last glimmer of revolution in 
Europe was suppressed. Yet these Anarchists had, in fact, accom 
plished very little. The Federals despised bourgeois that they were 
had shown themselves a thousand times braver and more revolu 
tionary. Perhaps the most terrible thing about the International had 
been its name. It had already brought them, even in those lax and 
disorderly years, four ' persecutions*, and Sagasta had gone so far as 
to declare their organization outlawed and they themselves under the 
criminal code. Even their numbers were smaller than was generally 
thought. It is very doubtful whether they ever mustered more than 
60,000 members, of whom some 40,000 were in Andalusia. 1 When in 
January 1874 General Serrano finally suppressed them, there was 
really no reason to suppose that they would ever be heard of again. 
The far more powerful Federal movement disappeared for good. 

tains an article entitled 'Our Programme* which begins in this style: 'We, the 
disinherited, the pariahs, the helots, the plebs, the dregs, the scum, the filth of 
society: we who have no feelings, no education, no shame declare that we have 
reached the depths of misery and that the hour of our triumph is at hand. . . . War on 

the Rich ! War on the Powerful ! War on Society ! Anarchy is our only 

formula. Everything for everyone, from power to women. . . . But first there must be 
a terrible, an extraordinary blood bath.' 

It is easy to guess what use was made of these publications. Already, a year before 
this, Cdndido Nocedal, the Carlist leader in the Cortes, was saying that the country 
would have to choose between Don Carlos and Petrol, whilst the Liberal Minister 
for Home Affairs, Sagasta, firmly convinced that the International in Spain was 
sustained by foreign gold and by three hundred foreign emissaries, was denouncing 
it as a 'philosophic Utopia of crime*. 

The facts are different. When Bakunin in 1873 wished to visit Barcelona, he was 
unable to do so because he could not raise the few pounds necessary to pay his 
railway fare. The only foreign emissaries to visit Spain for the International were 
Fanelli and Lafargue. 

1 The Spanish delegate at the Bakuninist Congress at Geneva in September 1873 
claimed for the movement 300,000 members. Francisco Mora, one of the hostile 
Marxist group, gave the figure as 60,000. The Times correspondent on 5 September 
gave it as 50,000. The anonymous author of an article ' Del Nacimiento de las Ideas 
Anarcho-Colectivistas en Espana', published in the Revista Social (Madrid) on 14 
February 1884, writing with an inside knowledge of the Anarchist movement, gave it 
as 30,000. But the Anarchists, true Iberians that they are, have never attached much 
importance to numerical accuracy. 'Let us have no more', wrote the editor of 
Solidaridad Obrera in 1937, 'of these miserable statistics, which only freeze the 
brain and paralyse the blood*. 



156 THE ANARCHISTS 

The International did survive, however. For seven years it lived 
underground. Its assemblies ceased to be held, the links between the 
different sections disappeared, the Catalan trade unions were made 
illegal. What remained were small circles of militants in Barcelona and 
Madrid and groups of artisans and field labourers in Andalusia. It 
was Andalusia that kept the fires of Anarchism alight during the next 
twenty years. 

To get a better idea of the situation in this part of Spain one can 
compare it with that of Ireland in Fenian times. In both the same 
factors were at work. An imaginative race, a hopeless oppression and 
poverty, a class of landowners who when not actually absentees were 
regarded as foreigners, a special constabulary living in fortified bar 
racks and armed with rifles. This constabulary, the Guardia Civil, was 
important. Narvaez had created it in 1844 to take the place of the 
militia, who were politically unreliable : its chief function was to keep 
down the bandits. 

The bandit had always been a feature of Andalusian life and for 
centuries had acted as a safety-valve for popular discontent. In the 
eyes of the country-people he was a hero, the friend of the poor and 
its champion against its oppressors. But the enclosure of the common 
lands had so increased the discontent that it became unsafe to tolerate 
bandits any longer. They were suppressed and risings of peasants 
came instead. However, on the first sign of political disturbance, the 
bandit reappeared again, but this time on the other side. No longer 
Robin Hoods (the police made that impossible), they were now the 
tools of the caciques, who needed them to protect their property and 
to control the elections against the rising tide of popular enthusiasm. 
The crop of bandits which covered Andalusia between 1868 and 1873 
and made travelling without escort impossible were nearly all of 
this type, and since, whenever they were arrested, the caciques put 
pressure on the judges to release them, the police were powerless. 
Andalusia seemed to be approaching the condition that led to the 
appearance of the Mafia in Sicily. It was the anarchists and the Civil 
Guard between them that prevented this by polarizing the feelings of 
the oppressed and the oppressors. From now on every Civil Guard 
became a recruiting officer for anarchism, and, as the anarchists in 
creased their membership, the Civil Guard also grew. 1 One has to 

1 See Julian de Zugasti, El Bandolerismo, 1878. Zugasti was Governor of Cordova 
from 1870 to 1874 with the special mission of suppressing brigandage. He was the 
originator of the famous ley defugas. See also Bernaldo de Quir6s, La Mafia and El 
Espartaquismo Andaluz. 



THE ANARCHISTS 157 

have lived in Andalusia to understand the kind of warfare that went 
on between them. 

This Civil Guard was one of the few really reliable and incorrup 
tible bodies of men in Spain. Carefully picked and highly disciplined, 
they lived scattered in small fortified posts among the towns and 
villages, forbidden to intermarry or to associate familiarly with the 
local inhabitants or to move about unarmed or alone. This rule has 
led to their being known everywhere as la Parefa, or 'the Pair'. It 
goes without saying that in poverty-stricken districts that is to say, 
throughout a large part of Spain their relations with the working 
classes were of open hostility and suspicion. Living as they did among 
their enemies, they became unusually ready to shoot. Again and 
again mild riots and demonstrations have become dangerous because 
the Civil Guard could not keep their fingers off their triggers. And 
from the moment that, in the nineties, the Anarchists rather tenta 
tively took to violence too, the readiness of the Guardia to shoot 
became greater than ever. After 1931 the hatred between them and 
the villagers made many parts of Spain ungovernable. 

The character of the rural anarchism that grew up in the south of 
Spain differed, as one would expect, from that developed in the large 
cities of the north. * The idea', as it was called, was carried from village 
to village by Anarchist 'apostles'. In the farm labourers' gananias or 
barracks, in isolated cottages by the light of oil candiles, the apostles 
spoke on liberty and equality and justice to rapt listeners. Small 
circles were formed in towns and villages which started night schools 
where many learned to read, carried on anti-religious propaganda and 
often practised vegetarianism and teetotalism. Even tobacco and 
coffee were banned by some and one of these old apostles whom I 
knew maintained that, when the age of liberty came in, men would live 
on unfired foods grown by their own hand. But the chief charac 
teristic of Andalusian anarchism was its naive millenarianism. Every 
new movement or strike was thought to herald the immediate coming 
of a new age of plenty, when all even the Civil Guard and the land 
owners would be free and happy. How this would happen no one 
could say. Beyond the seizure of the land (not even that in some 
places) and the burning of the parish church, there were no positive 
proposals. 

The underground period came to an end in 1881 when the Liberal 
Government of Sagasta (once the Diocletian of the Internationalists) 
came into office and passed a law making trade unions and working- 



158 THE ANARCHISTS 

class organizations legal. The Socialists at once took advantage of this 
law to found their party and at an Anarchist Congress held in Barcelona 
in March the Spanish Regional Federation of the International came 
into existence. It was a federation of small trade unions and local 
sections, modelled on that set up by the Cordova Congress in 1872, 
with a strictly legal programme of propaganda and strikes. 

But meanwhile repressions and persecutions all over Europe had 
brought about a change in the character of anarchism. The Bakuninist 
International had held its last Congress in 1877. Since then a crisis in 
the watch-making industry had led to the ruin of the small home 
industries in the Jura, and large-scale production at Geneva took its 
place. Thus the backbone of anarchist trade unionism in Europe was 
broken and in March 1878 the Bulletin de la Federation Jurassienne, 
which for seven years had been the chief organ of the Anarchist move 
ment, came out for the last time. Le Revoke, edited by Kropotkin at 
Geneva, took its place with a new theory anarchist communism. 

But the loss of its trade-union following owing to persecutions and 
other causes, and its consequent isolation from the masses, was leading 
to a movement that tended either to individualism or to small secret 
groups. In the congresses that were celebrated from time to time in 
different parts of Europe it was no longer federations of workers who 
sent their delegates, but small groups of militants and sometimes even 
newspapers and isolated individuals, who represented no one but 
themselves. Most of the groups were secret and some were terrorist. 

It was the Italians who best represented this tendency. The factory 
worker in Italy had never taken to anarchism. 1 Just as in Spain, it had 
been the petite bourgeoisie and the peasants of the south who had 
shown most susceptibility to it. Already at the Berne Congress of 
1876 Malatesta was declaring that * trade unionism was a reactionary 
institution'. But the police had become more active in Italy since 
then and soon even the peasants hung back. To stir them up and to 
rouse their imaginations new and more striking methods were sug 
gested. 'Propaganda by deed* began to be preached as an anarchist 
technique. 2 At first this did not consist in much more than organized 
risings or conspicuous acts of sabotage, but police repressions, accom 
panied sometimes by ferocious torture in prison, led to the formation 
of definitely terroristic groups, which were ready to use any means 
to bring down their enemies. 

1 See Note E on p. 168 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note F on p. 168 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHISTS 159 

The assassination of the Czar in March 1881 by Russian Social 
Revolutionaries caused a profound sensation all over Europe. The 
reactionaries everywhere took fright and the revolutionaries were 
encouraged. The Anarchist Congress which met in London four 
months later debated under its shadow. Many of the delegates were, 
in SteklofFs words, 'isolated desperadoes, lone wolves, infuriated by 
persecution and out of touch with the masses'. Others, the most 
violent of all in their proposals, were police spies. Others again 
represented the new theories of 'anarchist communism 5 . But resolu 
tions were passed accepting 'propaganda by deed' as a useful method 
and recommending members to 'pay more attention to the technical 
and chemical sciences'. The Spanish delegate, when he went back to 
Madrid, took several new ideas with him. 

However, the effect of this changed orientation upon their Spanish 
comrades was inconsiderable. Spaniards lived then at a great distance 
from the rest of Europe. Besides, anarchism had still a large pro 
letarian following. Under such conditions terrorist action was mad 
ness and would not find any encouragement among the workers. The 
new Regional Federation had in any case no need to appeal for violent 
methods. Its progress during the first year or two of its existence was 
rapid. A Congress held at Seville in 1882 represented some 50,000 
workers, of whom 30,000 came from Andalusia and most of the rest 
from Catalonia. 1 

Yet the fact that there was no longer any picked body of professed 
Anarchists, such as had been provided by the old Alliance of Social 
Democracy, led to a serious lack of cohesion. Two tendencies stood 
out the Catalan, which was reformist to the point of believing that 
the trade-union struggle should be kept within legal bounds and that 
strike funds should be accumulated, 2 and the Andalusian, which was 

1 According to Anselmo Lorenzo the Regional Federation was composed at this 
time of 49,000 members. Of these 30,047 were from Andalusia, 13,181 from 
Catalonia, 2,355 from Valencia, 1,550 from Castile, 847 from Galicia, 689 from 
Aragon and 710 from the Basque provinces (i.e. Bilbao) (El Proletariado Militante, 
vol. n, pp. 147 and 313). 

Dfaz del Moral (op. cit. p. 122) gives a total of 57,934 members, of whom 19,181 
were from Eastern Andalusia, and 19,168 from Western Andalusia. The dis 
crepancy is due to the fact that for Andalusia he is including sections which were 
affiliated to the Federation but which did not send delegates to the Congress at 
Seville. These figures, whether correct or not in themselves, show clearly the 
distribution of Anarchists in different parts of the country and their huge prepon 
derance in the south. It was not till the end of the century that the Anarchist 
federations in Catalonia began to outnumber those in Andalusia. Till then Spanish 
anarchism was chiefly a rural movement. 

2 See Note G on p. 168 at end of chapter. 



3:60 THE ANARCHISTS 

opposed to strike funds because it could not afford them and for that 
reason favoured short strikes accompanied by violent action and 
sabotage. 

The Congress held at Seville in 1 882 secured a formula of conciliation, 
but a group of Andalusians who called themselves the Desheredados 
or 'Disinherited' and consisted of certain sections of workers from 
the vineyards of Jerez and Arcos de la Frontera dissented and left the 
Federation. They favoured more violent action. Feeling in the 
country districts at that time was especially tense because the last two 
years had been years of severe drought and famine. The starving 
labourers had had to stand by and watch the crops on the large estates 
carried off to be sold at high prices in Seville or Cadiz. Ever since 
1876 discontent had been acute and had shown itself in burnings of 
vineyards and in assassinations. Secret groups and societies pullulated. 
Then came a year of exceptionally abundant rainfall. The harvest was 
excellent and a strike of reapers against piece-work led to a state of 
excitement and expectation in the whole district. All at once the 
police announced that they had discovered a formidable secret society, 
the Mono Negra or ' Black Hand', whose members had formed a plot 
to assassinate all the landowners of the district. Thousands of arrests 
were made, there were three hundred sentences of imprisonment and, 
after the usual tortures to obtain evidence, eight executions. Yet the 
very existence of the Mono Negra has been disputed. Bernaldo de 
Quiros, the famous sociologist sent down by the Government to 
investigate, doubted it. Spanish and French newspapers took it up 
and debated it for years. The nature of the evidence presented in 
court, the manifest barbarity of the procedure and the severity of the 
sentences seemed to show that the whole thing was an invention of the 
police. New evidence has, however, come to light from which it 
would appear that there were secret societies which condemned to 
death not landlords, but informers, and that the Desheredados were 
mixed up in this. But what is also certain is that the police enormously 
magnified the whole matter and took advantage of it to condemn the 
leading Anarchists of the district without any regard to whether they 
were innocent or guilty. 1 

The Mono Negra episode and the reaction that followed it drove 
underground once more the anarchist movement in Andalusia. In 
vain did a Congress summoned at Valencia issue anathemas against 
criminal activities. An outbreak of bubonic plague on the east coast 

1 See Note H on p. 168 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHISTS l6l 

led to a brief religious revival and to nightly processions of the 
Virgin about the streets. In Barcelona the Federation was rapidly 
going downhill. Its lack of fighting spirit and the bitter dissensions 
between the collectivists and the * anarchist communists' were dis 
integrating it. 

This matter of collectivism and communism must be explained. 
The question was in what form would the stateless society of the 
future be organized ? In Bakunin's day the matter had been very little 
discussed : the word collectivism had been adopted because to French 
minds communism suggested the phalanstery. 1 In a collectivist society 
all property and instruments of labour are held in common, but each 
man has the right to what he can earn by his own work, or to join with 
other groups (collectives) who possess that right. Such a method of 
organization rather presupposes a primitive agrarian form of life and 
is at first sight not so well adapted to modern industrial conditions. 
Thus, though it was popular in Andalusia, it was questioned in 
Barcelona. Communism had the further advantage of being supported 
by most of the leading Anarchists in Europe: Kropotkin, who had 
taken up what had originally been an Italian theory, had won them 
over to it. However, another very important idea was involved in this 
question that of liberty. The new dogma struck at the conception 
underlying the whole Bakuninist organization the liberty that each 
group had to decide what it thought best. If it were adopted it would 
put an end to that collaboration of convinced Anarchists with large 
bodies of free workers which was the essence of Bakunin's system. 
Here and not in some disagreement about the hypothetical form of the 
future society lay the real meaning of the controversy. Kropotkin 
stood for a purification and concentration of the Anarchist ranks that 
would be a serious obstacle to the participation of the masses. 

The result of this dispute was that in 1888 the Regional Federation 
broke up. The immediate cause of its collapse was a violent discussion 
as to whether anarchist organizations should consist solely of con 
vinced Anarchists or should include all workers who were ready to 
join. This, as I have explained, was the real issue between 'com 
munists' and 'collectivists', between Kropotkin and Bakunin. When, 
with the introduction of Anarcho- Syndicalism in 1909, it was finally 
decided in accordance with Bakunin's ideas, the question of the 

1 See Kropotkin's Memoirs of a Revolutionist, p. 446. According to him ' Spanish 
collectivists imply by collectivism the possession in common of all instruments of 
production . . . and the liberty of each group to divide the produce as they think fit, 
according to communist or any other principles' (Conquest of Bread, p. 216). 



j62 THE ANARCHISTS 

nature of the future form of society became less important. Whilst 
collectivism was retained as a working basis, the distant ideal became 
comunismo Kbertarw. 1 

The next twenty years are the most obscure and ill-defined in the 
history of Spanish anarchism. For one thing there was no longer any 
single Anarchist federation covering Spain. In different towns there 
existed small groups of militants and intellectuals, generally centring 
round some weekly or fortnightly journal, and in Catalonia there was 
a trade union, the Pacto de Solidaridad y Resistenda, of collectivist 
tendencies, and a smaller Organization Anarquista, composed of pure 
anarchists who were mostly communists. Barcelona, Madrid and a 
little later Corunna contained the strongest nuclei of militants, whilst 
in Andalusia rural anarchism pursued its usual rhythm: bursts of 
millenarian fervour leading up to some great strike or mass demon 
stration and followed by a decade of apathy. 

One of these occurred in January 1891 when, inspired by a suc 
cessful strike in Barcelona, 4000 labourers armed with sticks and 
scythes marched into Jerez crying: * We cannot wait another day- We 
must be the first to begin the Revolution Long live Anarchy!' and 
occupied it for several hours. On the arrival of the police they 
dispersed. Two shopkeepers were murdered in the course of this 
otherwise harmless exploit, but the police made it the excuse for a 
violent repression, condemning four to death and sentencing eighteen 
to long terms of hard labour. 2 

The nineties were everywhere the period of anarchist terrorism. 
We have seen how the loss of its working-class adherents and the 
stupidity of police repressions led to this. But there were other 
causes as well. The reign of the bourgeoisie was now at its height. 
Their meanness, their philistinism, their insufferable self-righteous 
ness weighed upon everything. They had created a world that was 
both dull and ugly and they were so firmly established in it that it 
seemed hopeless even to dream of revolution. The desire to shake by 
some violent action the complacency of this huge, inert and stagnant 

1 The word * libertarian * was invented by Sebastien Faure in 1898, when the 
great Anarchist periodical, Revista Blanca, was founded. Since at that time anarchist 
propaganda was forbidden, some other word had to be used to express the idea. 

2 Blasco Ibanez*s novel La Bodega is based on this rising. The saintly Anarchist 
* apostle" who is its hero is meant as a portrait of Fermin Salvoechea, who although 
in prison at Cadiz at the time of the rising, was sentenced to twelve years hard 
labour for complicity in it. It is true that he probably organized it from the gaol. The 
following year there was a strike in the same district at harvest time against land 
owners who paid * fifty centimes for sixteen hours \ The landowners defeated it in 
the usual way, by calling in blackleg labour from the mountain villages. 



THE ANARCHISTS 163 

mass of middle-class opinion became irresistible. Artists and writers 
shared this feeling. One must put such books as Flaubert's Bouvard 
et Pecuchet and Huysmans' A Rebours, Butler's and Wilde's epigrams 
and Nietzsche's savage outbursts in the same category as the bombs of 
the Anarchists. To shock, to infuriate, to register one's protest became 
the only thing that any decent or sensitive man could do. 1 

In Spain, however, the psychological atmosphere was different. 
The police were more brutal and governments were more tyrannous, 
but as they were also more inefficient and more careless, and as life 
still followed in the easier track of the previous century, the air could 
still be breathed. Bomb outrages tended less therefore to take the 
form of protests against society in general than to be strict acts of 
revenge for prison tortures or unjust sentences. The first bomb was 
thrown in 1891 at a building the offices of the great Catalan em 
ployers' association, the Fomento. A strike was in progress and it was 
thought that a little 'propaganda by deed' would encourage the 
workers. After this Barcelona suffered from a perfect epidemic of 
petards and bombs, laid however not so much to injure as to frighten. 
The people responsible for this were a small group of Anarchists, 2 
many of them Italians, who believed that in this way they would raise 

1 To register a protest ! This phrase sums up almost the whole of anarchist action 
in Spain during the last fifty years. In their newspapers and magazines no word is so 
common as the word protesta. Spanish anarchism early adopted an attitude of moral 
disapproval towards the bourgeoisie and all its doings which it never relaxed. As to 
the assassinations, whilst there can be no doubt that Bakunin would not have 
approved of a policy of terrorism, it is also true that he did not boggle at isolated 
'acts of justice'. In a letter to Herzen dated 23 June 1867 he writes: 'Why do you 
call Berezovsky a fanatic? "He is pure because he is a fanatic** you say. What a 
terrible jeu de mots I As if there were no right to passions in life! Bere 
zovsky is an avenger, one of the most legitimate justiciers of all the crimes, of all the 
tortures and of all the humiliations which the Poles have suffered. Can't you 
understand ? If such explosions of indignation did not take place in the world, one 
would despair of the human race.' 

2 It is from now on that the small group becomes the characteristic organization. 
Small parties or tertulias of people would meet every day at some cafe to discuss the 
new ideas and to make plans, and at the centre of these would be four or five initiates, 
usually intimate friends, who held the secrets. These groups gave themselves names, 
such as Salut, Fortuna, Avant, Benvenuto, and so on. Most of them confined them 
selves to discussion and propaganda, in which they were highly successful. By 1892, 
when the bomb outrages began, large sections of the middle classes and intellectuals 
in Barcelona had been won over to sympathy with Anarchist ideas. But under 
foreign influences other groups became terrorist. 

This group organization persisted, surviving even the importation of syndicalism, 
and later we see the redoubtable Federaci6n Anarquista Iberica or F.A.I. built up 
of a large number of groups of like-minded persons, that reacted on one another 
in a complicated manner. They had their cafe's too : the place at which most of the 
armed risings of the Republican period were hatched was the Cafe Tranquilidad in 
the Paralelo. 



164 THE ANARCHISTS 

the fighting spirit of the workmen. A book of instructions for making 
explosives, called the Indicador Anarguista, was handed round and 
a watchmaker learned to make Orsini bombs with a time fuse. 
Malatesta visited Spain and held a large meeting at Madrid. But 
the leading Spanish militants held aloof. 

The following year a young man called Pallas threw a bomb at 
General Martinez Campos in revenge for the execution of two well- 
known Anarchist journalists for complicity in the Jerez rising. Martinez 
Campos was only slightly wounded, but Pallas was tried by court 
martial and shot. His friend Santiago Salvador avenged him with a 
terrible act. He threw a bomb into the stalls of the Liceo theatre, 
killing twenty people, half of them women, and wounding many more. 
The police, who at first could not find out who had done it, arrested 
five leading Anarchists at hazard and, although it was clear that they 
had no connection with the terrorists, the judges found them guilty. 
Then Salvador was caught. However, this did not prevent the five 
from being executed as well. 1 The inefficiency of the police on this 
occasion led to the creation of a new political police force, the Brigada 
Social. 

The first act of this police was however a rather peculiar one. The 
traditional procession with the Host on Corpus Christi Day, headed 
by the bishop, the Captain- General and other authorities, was on its 
way to Santa Maria del Mar, when in the Calle de Cambios Nuevos a 
bomb was thrown from a top-story window on to it. But the bomb 
did not fall on the head of the procession where the leading digni 
taries of the city were walking: it fell on the tail, where it killed seven 
working-class people and a soldier. The thrower of this bomb was 
never discovered, but General Weyler, of Cuban War notoriety and at 
that time Captain- General of Barcelona, made an immediate use of 
the incident. Not merely Anarchists but simple anti-clericals were 
arrested wholesale and thrown into the Montjuich dungeons, where 
the new police was let loose upon them. Here without any control or 
any rational object the most frightful tortures were applied. Several 
died under them, in addition to the official executions. Yet of those 

1 Salvador, in order to escape from the frightful tortures that were employed, 
pretended to repent of his act and to be converted. The Jesuits took him under their 
protection: one then had the extraordinary spectacle of the aristocratic ladies in 
Madrid and Barcelona treating him as a * poor unfortunate * and getting up petitions 
to the government for his reprieve. Not a word was said about saving his perfectly 
innocent but irreligious companions. However, the reprieve was refused, and oh the 
scaffold Salvador threw off the mask and cried Viva el Anarquismol 



THE ANARCHISTS 165 

executed only one, Ascheri, had belonged to the group of bomb 
throwers. Of those acquitted sixty-one were sent to the penal settle 
ments of Rio de Oro, a punishment at that time almost worse than 
death. The Montjuich tortures shocked Europe and a young Italian 
Anarchist called Angiolillo, then living in London, was so moved by 
the account he heard that he made his way to Santa Agueda, where the 
Prime Minister, Canovas, was taking the waters, and shot him. 1 

The loss of Cuba brought this wretched era to an end. Both the 
Government and the Army were too discredited to take the field any 
longer. The terrorist groups were discredited too and most of their 
members were either dead or in prison. A new breeze began to stir 
the drooping leaves of Anarchism. First it began to be said that the 
general strike and not the bomb was the true revolutionary weapon ; 
then it was passed round that the triumph of Anarchism, like the 
triumph of Catholicism and the triumph of Liberalism, could only 
come from the schools : the young must be educated in the libertarian 
doctrine before the conquest of power could begin. A movement for 
founding Anarchist schools therefore grew up in various parts of 
the country. At Barcelona the Escuela Moderna was founded by 
Francisco Ferrer. At this children were brought up to believe in 
liberty, social equality and so on, and above everything else to hate the 
Church which taught false and f perverted' doctrines. There were 
also night schools for adults and a printing press which turned out a 
continuous stream of Anarchist books and pamphlets. Ferrer him 
self, a narrow-minded pedant with few attractive qualities, professed 
to have given up all belief in violence and to have abjured his Anar 
chist connections, but this need not be taken too seriously. The recent 
persecutions had made discretion desirable. Other schools were 
founded in Andalusia. Working men were taught to read and to 
abjure religion, vice and alcoholism. A woman, Belen Sarraga, 
founded a society for working women in the province of Malaga 
which had 20,000 members, mostly field labourers. 

This movement corresponded to a period of intellectual expansion. 
Never before had Spanish anarchism contained men of education and 
ideas. It also began to open its ranks to the middle classes. Tarrida 
del Marmol, one of the leading Anarchists of the period, was the 
director of the Polytechnic Academy at Barcelona and came from one 
of the best families in the city. Jose Lopez Montenegro, who edited 
La Huelga General, had been a colonel in the Army. Ricardo Mella, 
1 See Note I on p. 168 at end of chapter. 



!66 THE ANARCHISTS 

a Galician engineer, was the only Spaniard to make any contribution 
to Anarchist theory. Many young writers and intellectuals too were 
drawn into the acratic orbit. Pio Baroja, Maeztu^ and Azorin 
sat for a time in their cafes and flirted with libertarian ideas. In 
Spain, just as in France, anarchism was the fashion. But the intense 
seriousness, which seemed to them narrowness and fanaticism, of the 
Anarchists ended by driving most of these young dilettantes away, and 
the arrival of syndicalism closed the Anarchist ranks for good and all to 
bourgeois sympathizers. Since 1910 the attitude of the Spanish Anar 
chists towards the intellectuals has been consistently hostile. They 
have had their own writers and thinkers and have not been interested 
in others. 

For Syndicalism was now in the air: the new belief in the efficacy of 
the general strike was due to its influence. It led to the formation in 
Madrid in 1900 of a Federation of Workers of the Spanish Region, 
founded on the classic model of 1873 and 1881. This culminated two 
years later in a metailurgic strike in Barcelona in which many other 
workers joined. The strike failed and was followed by a temporary 
set-back: the workmen left the Anarchist unions in swarms and the 
Federation collapsed. 1 But it had given rise to a great deal of en 
thusiasm all over Spain and to an unprecedented wave of millenarian 
fervour in Andalusia. It was clear that it was only a matter of time 
before the new Syndicalist methods of organization, with their su 
perior vigour and cohesion, would cross the Pyrenees into Spain. 2 

1 According to a Catholic economist, Sastre, who made a special study of the 
working-class organizations of this period, the number of workmen in Barcelona 
who belonged to the 'societies of resistance* declined from over 45,000 in 1902 to a 
bare 10,000 in 1909. The total number of workmen in Barcelona at this time was 
88,000. Even so not all these 45,000 were affiliated to Anarchist federations : accor 
ding to Buenacasa, an Anarchist Congress held at Madrid in 1900 represented only 
50,000 members from the whole of Spain. The fact is that the oldest and most 
important trade unions in Barcelona, the hand-weavers, paper-makers, barrel- 
makers and half the mill hands had steadily refused, since the foundation of the 
International, to come under Anarchist influence. It was Syndicalism and the 
foundation of the C.N.T. that brought them all in. 

2 See Note J on p. 169 at end of chapter. 

FURTHER NOTES TO CHAPTER VII 

A (p. 142). Of the 54 delegates who attended the Regional Congress at Cordova in 
December 1872, 30 belonged to various trades (printers, typographers, master 
masons, shoemakers, carpenters, bakers), 1 1 were factory hands (cotton spinners and 
papenoakers), 3 were small peasants, 2 were students and one was a school teacher. 
For further details see Diaz del Moral, op. cit. pp. 100 and 421. Among them were 
several men of talent Pablo Iglesias, Francisco Mora, ]os6 Mesa, Juan Jos6 Morato, 
who later joined the Socialist Party: Anselmo Lorenzo, Tomas Gonzalez Morago, 



THE ANARCHISTS 167 

Rafael Farga Peliicer, Fermfn Salvoechea, who remained Bakiminists. The books 
written, by J. J. Morato and Anselmo Lorenzo upon their respective movements 
have considerable merit. 

B (p. 143). This rectification of Fanelii's mistake had been prepared during the 
previous summer, when Farga Peliicer and Dr Sentinon went to Switzerland to 
attend the Fourth Congress of the International at Basle, met Bakunin and became 
members of his intimate circle, the Fratemit Internationale. 

The programme of the Alianza de la Democracia Social, first published in August 
1872 in La Federation and reprinted in Nettlau's La International y la Alianza en 
Espana, was as follows: 

1. The Alliance desires first of all the definite and complete abolition of classes, 
and economic and social equality of individuals of both sexes. In order to arrive at 
this, it demands the abolition of individual property and of the right of inheri 
tance. . . . 

2. It desires for the children of both sexes equality of education, of food and of 
social position (ilustratiori) 

3. Enemy of all despotism, it recognizes no form of state and refuses all revolu 
tionary action which has not for its object the direct triumph of the workers* cause 
against capital ; for it desires that all the political and authoritarian states at present 
existing should be reduced to mere administrative functions of public services 

4. It refuses to take part in any action founded upon so-called patriotism and 
rivalry between nations. 

5. It declares itself atheistical: desires the abolition of all cults and the substitution 
of science for faith and of human for divine justice. 

C (p. 1 53). It is sometimes asserted that the Internationalists * infused their tactics 
and principles * into the Cantonalist movement, in imitation of the Paris Commune. 
There is not the least truth in this. For one thing they were too weak. Compared to 
the petite bourgeoisie with its long insurrectionary traditions, who formed the bulk of 
the Federal party, they were quite insignificant both in their numbers and in their 
lack of self-confidence. For another, it had been decided at two assemblies held at 
Barcelona and at Alcoy on the eve of the general elections not to take part as a body 
in any political action, though individual members should be allowed to co-operate 
with the Federals if they wished to do so. The Internationalists were to confine 
themselves to pressing for better conditions for the working classes in Spain, whilst 
keeping the social revolution as a distant objective. The Cantonalist risings that 
summer did not materially alter this. The only risings where the Internationalists 
played any real part were those led by the local federations of Alcoy and San Lucar 
de Barrameda, which grew out of strikes that had purely economic objects. See 
J. Guillaume, L* Internationale, Documents et Souvenirs, vol. in, part 5, pp. 60 and 
85. Also Anselmo Lorenzo, op. tit. vol. n, pp. 122-126. And for the view of the 
Marxist group, see the report written for Engels by Jos6 Mesa and Pablo Iglesias on 
24 August 1873, which is quoted by Max Nettlau in Documentor Ineditos, etc. 

D (p. 154). The Internationalists* version of what happened at Alcoy is given by 
Lorenzo, El Proletariado Militante, vol. n, p. 147. 

It may be interesting to compare this quite exceptional affair with a typical 
Andalusian riot that occurred at the same time, but in which the International 
played no part. Montilla is a small town lying to the south of Cordova in a famous 
wine-producing district. There was a strong federal Republican movement there in 
1869 and also a sodedad campesina or peasants* and agricultural labourers* union. 
But the rich families of the town had no intention of surrendering their power 
because the Monarchy had fallen and, as elsewhere in Andalusia, they organized 
what was known as a Partido de la Porra or Cudgel Party with the help of ruffians 
whose business it was to control the elections and beat up anyone who tried to make 



l68 THE ANARCHISTS 

trouble for their masters. When Sagasta was in power, they called themselves 
constitutionals : when Ruiz Zorrilla, radicals: when Serrano, unionists. That is to say, 
they were always of the same party as the Government and so could count on the 
support of the Civil Guard. And so with their paid bands of matones or brigands 
there was no one who dared to contradict them. But on the abdication of King 
Amadeo and the proclamation of the republic the local federals thought it time for 
the alcalde and his corporation to quit their posts and hand over the municipality to 
them. Such is the rule in Spain, where all real changes of government are revolu 
tions. But the matones prevented this. Then in one of those spontaneous movements 
of anger that Bakunin would have admired, without prearranged plan and without 
leaders, the people broke loose, sacked and burned the houses of the rich, destroyed 
the property deeds and killed several of their tyrants. See Dfaz del Moral, op. cit. 
PP. 67-77. 

E (p. 1 58). * In Italy the workers, the urban operatives, are on the whole conservative 
or apathetic. The Revolutionary section of the Italian population is made up out of 
the peasantry, the petite bourgeoisie and those who have been miscalled by the 
nickname of Lumpenproletariat." Italian delegate No. 25 (Merlino, not, as SteklofT 
asserts, Malatesta) at the Anarchist Congress in 1881. Quoted by Stekloff, History 
of the First International. 

F (p. 158). The first reference to propaganda by deed occurs in a letter written by 
Malatesta to Cafiero on 3 December 1876 and published in the Bulletin de la 
Federation Jurassienne: 'The Italian Federation believes that the insurrectionary 
deed, which attempts to affirm socialist principles by action, is the most efficient 
means of propaganda, the only one which, neither cheating nor depraving the 
masses, is able to make its way effectively into the lowest social strata and to direct 
the living forces of mankind towards support of the international struggle/ 

G (p. 159). According to Buenacasa it was the insistence of the leaders of the 
Regional Federation that strikes should be kept within legal limits and their recom 
mendation of strike funds that ruined it. Lorenzo and most of the older militants 
opposed this as leading to calculation and to a weakening of the fighting spirit. 

H (p. 1 60). The sources for the Mano Negra episode are: 

1. The Materials published by Soledad Gustavo in Tierra y Libertad during 
1902. This is the official Anarchist version and denies everything. 

2. Bemaldo de QUITO'S, El Espartaquismo Andaluz. 

3. Dfaz del Moral, op. ciL 

4. Two articles by Max Nettlau in Revista Blanca, i December 1928 and 15 
January 1929. Nettlau gives evidence to show that the Desheredados 'condemned to 
death 1 Farga Pellicer and other leading Anarchists of the Regional Federation. 
Considering the stir this affair has made, it is surprising to learn that only three 
assassinations (all of poor men) were ever proved. However, it had one good effect: 
it led to the setting up by Moret of the Comision de Reformas Sociales for investi 
gating the causes of industrial and agricultural unrest. The first President of this 
body was Ca"novas. 

I (p. 165). The revelation of the police tortures in Monrjuich gaol made a deep 
impression everywhere. David Hannay, at this time British Vice-Consul at Bar 
celona and author of Twentieth-Century Spain, wrote that 'there was no doubt that 
torture was used to extort confessions from large numbers of people arrested at 
random. It was not applied as by the Inquisition and by the old criminal procedure 
on a regulated system and under the supervision of magistrates, but at the direction 
of the lowest class of political agents. These cruelties were quoted by Michel 
Angiolillo as his justification for murdering Csinovas. The memory of the torturings 



THE ANARCHISTS 169 

in Montjuich has done more to excite the social hatred of the poor against the rich 
a sentiment once hardly known in Spain, but now too common.' 

Hannay goes on to say that much of the violence of the Anarchist movement must 
be attributed to the cruelty of the police repression. (Cambridge Modern History, 
vol. xn, Section on Spain by David Hannay.) 

H. B. Clarke, in his conservative history, says the same thing: 'Holders of 
advanced opinions, though peaceable citizens, might if they fell into the hands of the 
police be treated like wild beasts' (Modern Spain, 1906, p. 454). 

These horrors were first made known by Tarrida del Marmol, a cultured man of 
good family who had himself been imprisoned at Montjuich. He wrote a book on 
his experiences which raised a storm in London and Paris. Mass meetings were held 
in Trafalgar Square and one of the victims of the police tortures was paraded about 
Europe. His toe-nails had been pulled out, his body was a mass of cuts and stripes 
and his sexual organs had been burned. And these were not the worst things that 
were done. When two years later an attempt was made to assassinate Portas, the 
police captain responsible for these horrors, his assailant had to be released, because 
no judge would convict him. 

For further details see Historia Ilustrada de la Revolution Espanola, by F. Caravaca 
and A. Orts-Ramos, vol. I, pp. 301-311. Also a large volume by Pedro Corominas. 

J (p. 166). The period 1 888-1 909 is the most confused and badly documented in the 
by no means clear or simple history of Spanish anarchism. Although certain 
episodes such as the Mano Negra or the Montjuich tortures have been extensively 
written upon, there is no book or article even which throws any general light upon it. 
Nor is the press informative. Until Dr Nettlau publishes the material he has been 
collecting, many points must remain unsettled. And since the war has delayed such 
projects indefinitely, it is doubtful if this will ever see the light. Meanwhile I have 
to thank him for having answered various questions I put to him. 

The salient feature of the period is the attempted introduction from France of 
* anarchist communism * with its conception of a centralized organization and secret 
directing group. This conflicted so violently with the large but loose federations of 
the * collectivists * that after bitter disputes the Anarchist movement in Spain prac 
tically broke up. One group of the * anarchist communists' then took to terrorism. 
This conflict illustrates the fundamental dilemma of anarchist organization. When 
the local federations were left to themselves they tended to isolated action and to 
reformism and when they were controlled by a small central body, then the revolu 
tionary pace became too hot and most of the members fell off. A compromise 
solution was found in Anarcho-SyndicaJism, but the disputes that attended the 
setting up of the Federacion Anarquista Ibe"rica or F.A.I, in 1927 show that even 
this was not entirely satisfactory. 



Chapter VIII 
THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

Recomrnen9ons maintenant la marche vers la delivrance. 

GEORGES SOREL. 

The word syndicalism * is simply French for trade unionism. The 
Syndicalist movement of a generation ago (Revolutionary Syndicalism, 
as it is usually called) had, however, a special character. It grew up in 
France during the nineties as a reaction against the parliamentary 
socialism that allowed such men as Millerand to represent the workers 
in the Chamber and to lead them along paths acceptable to the 
bourgeoisie. The figure chiefly associated with It was an Anarchist, 
Femand Pelloutier, and, though he died prematurely in 1901, the 
reorganization of the Confederation General du Travail (or C.G.T.) 
in the year following his death completed his work. 

This Syndicalism was in the first place a movement that aimed at 
uniting all workers, whatever their political or religious opinions, in 
one body and in giving to that body a new fighting spirit. They were 
to reject all corporate political action and to keep entirely to the 
industrial sphere. Here they would rely upon their own resources and 
their own men, refusing the assistance of bourgeois journalists and 
intellectuals. They would cultivate a strict discipline and their only 
weapon would be the strike, which would be thorough and violent. 1 

Up to this point Syndicalism was simply a fighting technique for 
winning more and more advantages for the workers such was its 
'daily revindicative task* until in one crowning battle, conceived in 
the form of a general strike, total emancipation would be obtained. 
But it had final aims also: like Proudhon it looked forward to a 
1 dissolution of government and state in the economic organization ' 
and it saw in its own organization the image of the future society. 
'The Syndicate, to-day a society of resistance, will in future be the 
group of production and distribution and the basis of social reorgani- 

1 The general strike goes back to the Chartists, but it was not till the Congress at 
Verviers of the Belgian Federation of the Bakuninist International in April 1873 that 
the theory of the general strike as the one and only means of bringing in a social 
revolution was first put forward. The strike that took place at Alcoy near Valencia a 
few months later was a consequence of this. After this the idea died down until the 
growth of revolutionary syndicalism in France during the nineties brought it to the 
surface again. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 171 

zation.' 1 That is to say, it was collectivism But whereas the Marxists 
wanted the ultimate control to be exercised through the State and its 
organs in the interests of the consumer, the Syndicalists wanted this 
control to rest in the hands of the producers and to be exercised by the 
trade unions. 

Syndicalism had a philosopher, or perhaps one should say a poet, 
Georges Sorel. His best-known book, Reflexions sur la Violence, 
published in 1908, had little influence among the workers and was 
never read in Spain, 2 though it was there that its ideas were most 
successfully carried into effect. It is a neo-romantic production, full 
of the echoes of Bergson, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and steeped 
in a fin-de-siecle pessimism. Sorel did not desire the happiness or 
physical well-being of the workers, but only their moral regeneration. 
This he conceived in a Nietzschean sense. Out of the sacrifice and 
heroism of their struggle against the bourgeoisie would arise a new and 
superior type of man, imbued with the sense of honour and chivalry 
that comes from war and filled with a consciousness of the dignity and 
sublimity of his mission. These new men, drawn from the corps 
d? elite of militants who had led the workers into battle, would form 
the new aristocracy. But such a result could just as well be obtained 
by a reformed and aggressive middle class as by a victorious prole 
tariat. Thus, by a natural transition, Sorel became the father of 
Fascism. 

In the later development of Spanish Anarcho- Syndicalism one sees 
much that reminds one of Sorel, especially the belief, always close to 
the surface in Spain, in the mystique of violence. But the generosity 
and optimism of the Spanish popular movement lay in a different key 
to the rigid Jansenism of the retired Norman engineer, who believed 
that 'the great ages were the ages when men had been chaste* and put 
the blame on the Jews when the Russian Revolution failed to lead to an 
increase in chivalry. He is better represented by the Falangists, whose 
Catholic upbringing helped them to appreciate his sense for the 
penumbra and his mood of semi-religious romanticism. In the Civil 
War the two branches of his descendants met, and sordid firing 
squads and bloodstained cemetery walls then showed exactly what 
was to be got out of Sorelian ethics. 

French Syndicalism reached its climax in a congress at Amiens in 

1 See the so-called Charte d' Amiens. 

2 A Spanish edition appeared in 1915, but attracted little attention outside 
literary circles. Later some of the Falangists read it. 



172 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

1906. The theoretic affirmation 3 which this assembly made in the 
so-called Charte <T Amiens broadcast its aims and character to the 
world. In the following year an Anarchist congress met at Amsterdam 
in the hope of devising something that would Increase the cohesion of 
the anarchist groups and federations In Europe : on the suggestion of 
Malatesta, who till then had been one of the most intransigeant of the 
c communist anarchists', It adopted as a technique Revolutionary Syn 
dicalism. 

A considerable number of Spanish Anarchists were already pre 
pared for this. Some years before, after the failure of the 1902 
general strike, a federation known as SoUdaridad Obrera had been 
formed In Barcelona, with the special object of introducing a syndi 
calist organization: In 1907 this federation was extended to the whole 
of Catalonia and in January of the following year it held its first 
Congress. It seemed that the moment had arrived, but political con 
ditions were not favourable (the agitation in Andalusia had just 
petered out and Maura's Government was in power) and it had to be 
postponed. The events of the Semana Trdgica and the execution of 
Ferrer decided the matter. The hero's legend and the martyr's crown 
bring recruits in Spain, and demands for the creation of a strong 
syndicalist organization were at once raised from all over the country. 
Thus In October 1910 a Congress of libertarian groups and federations 
at Seville created the Confederation Nadonal del Trabajo or, as it is 
generally called, the C.N.T. 1 

The conditions on which this great union was formed were laid 
down clearly. Syndicalism was to be regarded, not as an end, but as a 
means of righting the bourgeoisie. The end was of course Anarchism. 
The syndicates were to be organized on a local basis that is to say, 
there were to be no national craft unions. The subscriptions were to 
be small 30 to 50 centimes a month. (In Andalusia, where the wages 
were exceptionally low, members were not required to pay anything.) 
There was to be no social insurance and no strike funds, nor were any 
of its leaders or secretaries to be paid. This at once gave it, in Spanish 
eyes, a moral superiority over the Socialist trade union, the U.G.T., 
which had a considerable paid secretariat. 2 

The Congress added a number of riders that might help to explain 
the meaning of the new syndicate to the growing army of its rivals. 
The material emancipation of the workers, It declared, could only 

1 See Note A on p. 197 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note B on p. 197 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 173 

come as the result of their moral emancipation. When they had 
ceased to feel like slaves they would be free. And everyone who did 
not think for himself and act spontaneously, following his own reason, 
was a slave. * But the workers cannot feel free so long as they feel the 
need of emancipators or leaders, who as soon as they have overthrown 
the old regime will inevitably set up another in which they will be 
privileged.' 

The new confederation held its first congress in 1911 at the Bellas 
Artes in Madrid. 30,000 members in 350 unions were represented at 
it. 1 A great expansion seemed about to take place, many of Lerroux's 
Young Barbarians were flocking in, but the new doctrine of the 
general strike proved too seductive. Without sufficient preparation a 
strike broke out at Bilbao and was taken up at Saragossa and Seville. 
There was also a violent rising at Cullera near Valencia. The premier, 
Canalejas, acted energetically: the C.N.T. was suspended in Bar 
celona and in other towns, and its offices were closed. The movement 
collapsed and the Anarchist press went bankrupt. But Canalejas paid 
a heavy price for his firmness: like Canovas before him he was 
assassinated. Then when in 1914 the syndicates began to reorganize 
and to prepare again for action the European war broke out and caused 
a split in the Anarchist ranks, some (especially the younger generation) 
being neutral and pacifist and others favouring the Allies. The 
difference went deep and aroused bitter feelings, and it was not till 
1917 that the C.N.T. felt itself strong enough to take serious action. 
At this point it will be necessary to pause in our account of the 
development of Anarcho-Syndicalism in the industrial towns in order 
to say something of what was happening in the country. The principal 
areas of rural anarchism in Spain are Andalusia and the Levante. With 
the help of Diaz del Moral's admirably objective and detailed history 
of the movement in the province of Cordova it should be possible to 
obtain a fairly exact idea of this. 

The general strike in Barcelona in 1902 roused, as we have seen, a 
good deal of enthusiasm among the working classes in the rest of the 
country. Nowhere was this greater than in Andalusia. Terrorism had 
been tried and had failed, half a century of peasant revolts had pro 
duced no result beyond long terms of imprisonment and executions : 
surely the general strike was the key which would unlock the door to 
happiness and plenty! An extraordinary ferment, as sudden and 
apparently as causeless as a religious revival, swept over the country 
1 M. Buenacasa, El Movimiento Obrero Espanol, 1928. 



174 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

districts. In the fields, in the farms and wayside inns only one subject 
was discussed and always with intense seriousness and fervour. In the 
midday rests and at night, after supper, groups were formed to listen 
to a labourer reading aloud from one of the Anarchist papers. Then 
came speeches and comments. It was what they had known and felt 
all their lives. How could they shut their ears to it? 1 An immense 
desire sprang up to read and learn, so as to have access to this store of 
knowledge and wisdom provided by the Anarchist press. One met 
peasants reading everywhere, on mule back, at meal time under the 
olive trees. Those who could not read, by force of hearing others spell 
out aloud their favourite passages, would leam whole newspaper 
articles by heart. Sometimes, after a single reading from Tierra y 
Libertad or El Productor, a labourer would feel illuminated by the new 
faith. The scales would fall from his eyes and everything seem clear to 
him. He then became an obrero consdente. He gave up smoking, 
drinking and gambling. He no longer frequented brothels. He took 
care never to pronounce the word God. He did not marry but lived 
with his companera, to whom he was strictly faithful, and refused to 
baptize his children. He subscribed to at least one Anarchist paper, 
read the little books on history, geography and botany brought out by 
Ferrer's press and held forth on these subjects whenever possible. 
Like other uneducated people who have suddenly had their eyes 
opened to the possibilities of knowledge, he spoke in an inflated style, 
using long incomprehensible words. 2 

The assemblies of these converts to anarquismo were what one 
would expect scenes of naive enthusiasm reminding one of Baptist 
meetings in English villages fifty years ago, where country orators 
discussed and harangued interminably. The speeches and resolutions 
were often of a simplicity that would make anyone smile, yet the 
authorities and the landlords, judging the Anarchists through their 
press and their foreign reputation, imagined that terrible plots were 
being hatched and fearful schemes of murder and destruction debated. 
So great was their ignorance of their own workmen that down to 1936 
the majority of the landlords believed that, in spite of all appearances 
to the contrary, the Anarchists were 'in the pay of Moscow'. 

The miracle that was to bring in the Messianic Age was the general 
strike, but in their impatience to see this the campesinos would not 
wait and strikes broke out all over the country without synchroni- 

1 See Note C on p. 1 98 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note D on p. 198 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 175 

zation. Each town or village struck when it seemed best to it, choosing 
as a rule the worst moment when there was no work to be done in 
the fields. The demands were usually for a reduction of hours rather 
than for an increase of paypiece-work was particularly objected to 
but often they were pushed to absurd lengths. 1 For example, in the 
general strike at Cordova in 1905 the workers asked for a yj hours' 
rest in an eight-hour day. The reason for this was that, since the 
strike was expected to bring in the revolution, they wanted to make 
sure that the owners would not agree to their terms. A more serious 
demand was for a reparto, i.e. for a division of lands. Whilst strikes 
were in progress the workers gave up drink and tobacco, observed a 
strict chastity and did not play cards. They either spent their time at 
home or parading silently up and down the streets. When there are no 
strike funds to be drawn, strikes are periods of tremendous strain and 
anxiety for the workers: the battle that the owners wage with ^ their 
bank balances, the men have to wage with their stomachs. Discipline 
and solidarity are therefore essential. 2 

The terrible drought and famine of 1905 brought the strikes to an 
end. The wonder-working images, with their clockwork heads and 
arms, were brought out and carried in procession round the fields. 
But Anarchism had killed faith in Catholic miracles and few followed 
barefoot. The famine, which the Government did very little to relieve, 
was followed by a period of calm, though defeat left bitter feelings 
behind it and there were burnings of farms and crops. If the strikes 
had led in many places to an increase in wages, this was offset by the 
steady rise all over Spain in the cost of living. 

The struggle between the C.N.T. and the Catalan employers' 
association in Barcelona, which began in 1918 and continued for five 
years until the Dictatorship put an end to it, has already been de 
scribed at some length in Chapter iv. It will only be necessary here to 
show in what way the development of Anarcho- Syndicalism was 

1 The real struggle on the large estates was over destajo (piece-work). There was a 
good reason for this. The landlords could not pay decent wages so long as their 
labourers did so little work. The labourers would not work harder because by doing 
so they would increase the already cruel unemployment. The landlords got serf 
labour that is, bad and unwilling labour but the labourers did not get the one 
privilege of serfs, which is maintenance. 4 > 

* Here is an example of a typical strike at Moron in the province of Seville in 1 902 
*o ooo labourers from the whole district came out on strike and were followed by ail 
the workmen, servants, wet nurses, municipal clerks and so forth. The women made 
the round of the richer inhabitants, demanding clothes and money. The men de 
manded a reparto, i.e. a division of land. On the arrival of the Civil Guard, the strike 
collapsed. (A. Marvaud, La Question Sodale en Espagne.) 



176 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

affected by it. The preliminary step was the organization in the 
C.N.T. of the sindicatos unicos de ramo, or factory unions, as a 

result of the failure of the great revolutionary strike of 1917 in which 
the Socialists had played the leading part. This measure merely gave 
the finishing touches to the ' syndicalization * of the new union. It had 
been the organization by Pelloutier in the nineties of the Bourses du 
Travail, or local unions, in a national federation and their inclusion as 
a separate section in the newly formed C.G.T. or federation of craft 
unions that had laid the foundation for the syndicalist machine. With 
out such a structure it could not be effective. These changes in the 
C.N.T. therefore, though far from complete, greatly increased the 
fighting power of the workers' organizations. They were, of course, 
a deliberate preparation for the coming battle. 1 

In the winter of 1918 a National Anarchist Conference met at 
Barcelona. Its object was to settle once and for all what were to be the 
relations of Anarchists to the syndical organization. After some dis 
cussion a Bakuninist solution was adopted, recalling the resolutions of 
the Congress of Cordova and the first years of the International in 
Spain. That is to say, it was agreed that, though a huge federation of 
workers such as the C.N.T. could not possibly be described as 
anarchist, it must be impregnated as much as possible with the 
libertarian or anarchist spirit and be led and directed by them. The 
reorganization in sindicatos unicos was approved and arrangements 
were made for launching a vigorous anarchist campaign throughout 
the country. 

The leading figures in this movement were Salvador Segui, the Not 
del Sucre, as he was called, or * Sugar Boy', and Angel Pestana. 
Segui's position was different from that of the * communist anar 
chist' doctrinaires of the previous generation. Though a good speaker 
when occasion required, his chief talent, like that of Pelloutier, lay in 
organization. The C.N.T. as a fighting force was largely his creation 
and he dreamed of a fusion between it and the Socialist U.G.T. that 
would unite in one body all the working-class forces in Spain. For 
this end he was prepared to surrender some of his Anarchist principles. 

1 Sindicatos unicos de ramo y industries in the large and sindicatos unicos de trdbaja- 
dores in the small towns. At the Madrid Congress in December 1919 the question 
was raised as to whether the formation of sindicatos unicos meant that the federaciones 
de^ ofido y de industries (i.e. craft unions) then existing must be wound up and 
simple committees of professional relations * put in their place. At the request of 
the Asturian delegation, which was under the influence of Socialist trade-union 
ideas, it was agreed that the old federations might remain. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 177 

But before anything of this sort could take place it was necessary to 
rouse the workers throughout Spain by means of some great act which 
would prove the strength of the new syndical organization. En 
thusiasm among the Catalan workers had reached a point when it 
would decline if it were not given an outlet. 

It was under these circumstances that the strike in the Canadiense 
(the great electrical company of Barcelona) broke out in February 1919. 
The strike ended in a compromise that was a moral victory for the 
workers, but the refusal of the military authorities to accept the terms 
agreed upon led to a general strike in which 100,000 came out. 1 The 
perfect discipline observed and the complete stoppage of all the 
factories and social services made a deeper impression upon Spaniards 
than any mere riot could have done, and though the strike again 
ended in a compromise (without strike pay no strike on this scale can 
last long) it provided a complete vindication of the syndicalist method. 
The agricultural labourers and small peasants throughout the south 
and east of Spain hastened to enrol themselves in the ranks of the 
C.N.T. 2 

The struggle in Barcelona continued all that summer with varying 
results, according to whether a reactionary military or a moderate 
Conservative Government was in power. In September came the 
employers' lock-out which weakened the syndicalist federation, but 
let loose the terrible war of the pistoleros which has already been 
described. In that struggle, as in all civil wars, both the contending 
parties lost. But in other parts of Spain, and especially in Andalusia, 
the agitation was now at its height and new strikes were a daily 
occurrence. It was in these circumstances that a Congress of the 
C.N.T. was called at Madrid. 

In December 1919, 450 delegates, claiming to represent some 
700,000 members of the C.N.T. and of the societies federated with it, 
met in the Comedia theatre. 3 A decision had to be taken on various 

1 This is the figure given by Fernandez Almagro (Historia del Reinado de Alfonso 
XIII). One may compare with it the 45,000 men who came out in Barcelona in 1892 
for a nine-hour day. It was of course far from representing the total number of factory 
workers. By the end of 1919, according to Almagro, the sindicatos libres (the con 
servative union) in Barcelona counted 100,000. Towards the end of the Dictatorship 
they reached, with the Catholic unions, the figure of 274,000, which one may take to 
be the total number of male workers of all classes in Barcelona. As Pestafia said in 
1922, 30 per cent of the workers in Catalonia were convinced Syndicalists: the rest 
formed an incoherent mass which voted for whichever side was winning. 

2 See Note E on p. 198 at end of chapter. 

3 See Note F on p. 199 at end of chapter. 



178 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

Important matters how best to continue the struggle, whether there 
should be a fusion with the Socialist U.G.T., what were to be the 
relations with Soviet Russia. As regards the first of these it was decided 
to call a strike of rent-payers all over Spain on i January and to or 
ganize among the printers a Red censorship which would correspond 
in intensity with the Government censorship. 1 A resolution was also 
passed upon sabotage: though a valuable arm in the struggle against 
capitalism, it was decided that it must be used intelligently and 'only 
when it was necessary, opportune and efficacious '. It was then agreed 
that the C.N.T. should adhere provisionally to the Third (Com 
munist) International, although maintaining all the principles of the 
First as laid down by Bakunin. As regards fusion with the U.G.T., 
Segui was strongly in favour of it and many syndicalists believed that, 
as the C.N.T. had at that time twice as many members as the 
U.G.T., they would absorb it. However, the voting was heavily 
against it. 2 In deference no doubt to the Bolshevik Revolution, the 
Congress declared its adhesion to the ideal of * anarchist communism' 
or as it was now called, comunismo libertario. This declaration was 
later ratified at the extraordinary congress in 1931 at Saragossa. 

We must now take up the story again in Andalusia. After the 
famine of 1905 anarchism seemed to disappear in the south of Spain. 
Only a few groups remained in the towns. But towards 1910 a certain 
activity began which culminated in the founding at Cordova in April 
1913 of a federation of peasants and agricultural labourers under 
syndicalist auspices, which called itself the Federation National de 
Agricultores Espanoles or F.N.A.E. 

It was hoped that this federation would end by enrolling peasants 
from all parts of Spain, and for this reason, though Anarchists had 
taken the leading part in its foundation, libertarian ideas were kept in 
the background. The aims were moderate an eight-hour day, a 
minimum wage of 2.50 pesetas, an extension of the factory laws to 
cover accidents to field workers and to insist upon proper sanitary 
arrangements in the cosmos or labourers' barracks. Its libertarian 
tendencies were shown by its condemnation of co-operatives, friendly 
societies and strike funds, 'as tending to increase egoism in the 
workers': its condemnation of arbitration tribunals, which involved 
the intervention of the State : and the encouragement it gave to workers' 
clubs and unions to set up rationalist schools. This did not, however, 

1 See Note G on p. 199 at end of chapter. 
z See Note H on p. 199 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 179 

prevent the small Socialist unions that existed in some of the Anda- 
lusian towns (especially in the province of Jaen) from joining it. 

The success of the F.N.A.E. was only moderate: it did not 
spread to the centre or north of Spain, except for certain districts 
around Saragossa: perhaps its chief feat was the conversion of the 
Levante (Murcia and Valencia) to libertarian ideas. Hitherto this 
part of Spain had remained neutral. But there was no return to the 
enthusiasm of 1902-1905 and by 1916 the movement was languishing. 
By the end of 1917 it appeared to be dead, yet a few months later the 
whole of Southern and Eastern Spain was in a state of violent agita 
tion. Such is the invariable rhythm in the southern provinces. 

The immediate incentives were, of course, the Russian Revolution 
and the growing strength of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Catalonia. The 
'means to deliverance' was, as in 1902-1905, the general strike. But 
the Messianic feeling of expectation, the childish belief that, if only 
work were to cease everywhere for a few days, comunismo liber- 
tario would drop out of the sky, had greatly diminished. All over this 
part of Spain there were now thousands of experienced militants, 
veterans of earlier campaigns, who understood the necessity for a 
serious struggle. The innumerable newspapers that sprung up, one to 
every small town, fanned the zeal of the workers and directed their 
operations. 1 Not only was the feeling In the towns and villages 
stronger and more unanimous than before, but the area affected was 
much wider. 

General strikes began in various small towns and villages towards 
the end of 1917 and, since most of them ended in success for the 
workers, they spread in the following spring and summer to the whole 
of Andalusia and the Levante. As in 1903, each village or town 
struck when it suited it. 2 The success of these strikes was due to the 
fact that, except in really large cities such as Seville or Malaga, all the 
workers and even the small farmers and shopkeepers were grouped in 

1 The newspaper has always played an immense part in the Anarcho-Syndicalist 
movement. By the end of 1918 more than fifty towns in Andalusia had libertarian 
newspapers of their own. It would be quite usual for an enthusiastic member of the 
C.N.T. to see several papers, all of course of his way of thinking, every day and 
certain phrases or verses would have a wide circulation and be quoted all over the 
province. Many of the articles in the local papers were sent in by uneducated 
men and rewritten by the editor before publication. Thus the newspaper was not 
merely an organ of propaganda but, like the pulpit in a Baptist chapel, a platform on 
which the leading sectarians of each little place could air their opinions. 

2 Of the seventy-five municipalities in the province of Cordova, only four failed to 
take part in this movement. By May 1919 almost every town and village in the 
province was in full eruption. (Diaz del Moral, op. cit.) 



l8o THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

one syndicate. In May a Congress was held at Seville to extend this 
system of local syndicates to the whole region. The adoption of 
dndicatos Unices by Catalonia, which has already been described, 
followed a couple of months later and the F.N.A.E. followed suit. 
That autumn saw therefore the immense majority of agricultural 
workers of the south and east of Spain, together with the tradesmen 
and the workers in small local industries, organized in one vast 
though loose syndicate. The beginnings of a peasants' confederation 
that would cover the whole of Spain seemed to be in sight, but in 
December at a Congress at Valencia the F.N.A.E. was merged in the 
C.N.T. This confirmed the preponderant influence of the factory- 
workers of Barcelona in the agricultural districts of the south and 
east, strengthened the Anarchist influence and perpetuated the quite 
unnecessary gulf between the Castilian and Andalusian peasantry. 
In other words the interests of the peasants and field labourers had to 
give way to the old antagonism between Catalonia and Castile. 1 

The strikes were organized in this way. In the majority of the 
pueblos not only did the peasants and landless labourers join the 
centre or sindicato, as it was variously called, but also the artisans, 
small shopkeepers and domestic servants. Members of theU.G.T., 
the Socialist union, enrolled also. In some pueblos there were at first 
a certain number of dissidents. These comprised the richer peasants 
and also those traditional enemies of the peasants, the muleteers and 
yuntews (landless possessors of a yoke of mules or oxen), as well as 
those labourers who for various reasons were closely associated with 
the landlords. But as the enthusiasm increased, these, either wil 
lingly, or because they feared to stand out, joined the centra also. 
Strangely enough the pueblos in which there were a fair number of 
small peasants were more enthusiastic than those where there were only 
day labourers. The latter, who had no resources of their own, could 
not afford to undertake long strikes. Their only weapons were sabotage 
and violence. It was therefore in those villages where large estates 
existed side by side with very small ones that the strikes were carried 
out most energetically. In some of the earlier strikes there was inti 
midation of blacklegs and boycotts. But very soon this ceased to be 
necessary, and the strikes were carried through quietly with perfect 
discipline and solidarity. 

During these years the local syndicates everywhere acquired im 
mense prestige and authority. Their leading men, who sat on the 

1 The headquarters of the F.N.A.E. movement had always been at Barcelona, in 
the offices of its leading newspaper, the Voz del Campesino. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS l8l 

committees, were the real rulers of the district. The municipality 
kept only a nominal power. Every Sunday the syndicate would meet 
in full assembly to discuss local affairs. The whole village attended and 
anyone who wished to had a right to speak. Resolutions were passed 
and voting took place by a show of hands. During the rest of the week 
the committee enforced its will by a system of fines, against which an 
appeal could always be made to the village assembly. What one was 
witnessing was really the rebirth of the municipality of the early 
Middle Ages, before the intrusion of the nobles, the rich burghers and 
the King had robbed it of its democratic quality. This is not the only 
occasion on which we shall have to note that Spanish Anarchism, just 
as much in its own way as Carlism, seeks to recreate the past. 

The demands of the strikers were not as a rule unreasonable. This 
shows that their political education had improved since 1905 and also 
that syndicalist, as opposed to anarchist, tendencies were uppermost. 
The majority of the strikes were for quite small increases of the 
appallingly low wages. At Castro del Rio, to take a typical example, 
the men demanded a minimum wage of 2.50 pesetas (about is. 6d.). 
When this was granted they raised their demands to 3.50. A com 
promise was reached at 3.00. Then the abolition of piece-work was 
pressed almost everywhere : the landlords agreed to this when obliged 
to, but went back on their promises later. It was a point they could 
not yield on. But the question that, for the first time in Spanish 
history, was seriously agitating the workers, was unemployment. And 
for the first time, too, this problem was linked with the idea of 
cultivating the land in common, under the supervision of the syn 
dicates. Until now there had been no question of cultivation in 
common. Regularly in every revolutionary movement the villagers had 
demanded a new reparto, or division of the land. But the failure of so 
many small holders was showing the folly of this, except where the 
soil was very good, and the rise of the syndicates provided an ideal 
means for its organization. The strikers therefore asked the Govern 
ment and the municipalities to find work for the unemployed until 
the land should be handed over to the syndicates, to be worked by 
them in common' just as it had been, in fact, in the Middle Ages. 1 

1 The policy of collectivizing the land, which during the Republic was the Anar 
chist solution for all agrarian questions, seems to have been first adopted at a 
Regional Congress of the C.N.T. at Cordova in July 1923. A resolution was then 
passed to the effect that parcellation of the land was a mistake and that the large 
estates at all events should be handed over to sindicatos de agricultures. This was the 
solution desired by the Catholic syndicates as well. But except perhaps in some parts 
of Lower Andalusia, 90 per cent of the field labourers continued to prefer parcella 
tion. 



l82 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

The attitude of the employers deserves some attention. Their first 
reaction was the usual Spanish one of intransigeance and arrogance. 
They refused to parley with the strikers at all. But when they saw 
that this did not pay, they collapsed and granted whatever was asked. 
This was all the more necessary because they received no support 
from the provincial governors. The moderate Conservative Govern 
ment then in office knew that agricultural wages were below the 
subsistence level and were glad to see them raised. The more sensible 
of the landowners therefore made a serious attempt to come to terms 
with the workers and to start housing schemes, schools and grants of 
land. But as the strikes spread and, from being sporadic, became 
synchronized through whole provinces, they gave way to panic. 
Liberals, Conservatives and Republicans forgot their ancient rival 
ries and drew together. The vendettas of the caciques were suspended 
and every house of any size became an armoury of shotguns and re 
volvers. With the terror so characteristic of their class whole families 
packed up and left the district, some not stopping till they had crossed 
the frontier. But in May 1919 a reactionary Government relieved 
them of their fears. La Cierva sent down a general at the head of a 
division of troops. Martial law was declared and all workers* syndi 
cates made illegal. The movement collapsed as if by magic, and 
although under later governments other strikes took place, they never 
recovered the same force or unanimity. The results gained by these 
two years of agitation were inconsiderable. During the same period 
the Catalan workers won, and kept, large increases in wages. In 
Andalusia the small gains made were soon offset by a rise in the cost 
of living. With the end of the European War, there came a slump in 
agricultural produce, much land went out of cultivation and unem 
ployment increased. It was obvious that only by far more drastic 
changes could the standard of life of the agricultural workers be 
raised. 

We must now return to the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement in the 
large towns of the north. It was declining in Barcelona by the end of 
1919 with the employers' lock-out and the outbreak of assassinations 
that accompanied it, and began to fall off a year later in Madrid and 
Saragossa. A pact signed by Largo Caballero and Segui as represen 
tatives of the U.G.T. and C.N.T., committing them to combined 
action, came too late to help it. Indeed, during the short time it 
lasted it had rather the opposite effect. For the failure of the great 
series of strikes, first in Andalusia and then in Barcelona, had cast 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 183 

discredit upon the purely Syndicalist elements and with the imprison 
ment of so many of the leaders other figures were rising to the surface. 

The last years before the Dictatorship saw therefore a struggle for 
leadership within the C.N.T. Segui and his friends were losing 
influence. The purely Anarchist groups held against them their pact 
with the U.G.T., their readiness to accept the mediation of the 
State in labour disputes and their general tendency to reformism. 
There was also the new Bolshevik influence. The Russian Revolution 
had naturally made an immense impression upon the Anarchist rank 
and file. A group, of whom the chief figures were a Catalan school 
master from Lerida called Andres Nin and an Aragonese, Joaquin 
Maurin, were in favour of closer association with the Bolsheviks. Nin 
and Maurin persuaded a local assembly to send them to Russia and 
there, without any authority for doing so, federated the C.N.T. to the 
Third International. But the suppression of the sailors' Soviets at 
Kronstadt in March 1921 had produced a revulsion in acratic circles 
and Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Schapiro and other leading 
Anarchists began to denounce the horrors of Lenin's dictatorship and 
in particular the war of extermination he was waging against their 
comrades. Angel Pestaiia, who had also been in Russia, returned to 
Spain with a full account of what was happening and Nin's and 
Maurin's action was disavowed. 

These events culminated in a Congress held at Saragossa in June 
1922 at which Juan Peiro presided. Faith in libertarian communism 
was once more reaffirmed, the C.N.T. refused all connection with the 
Moscow International and sent instead its delegates to Berlin to the 
congress of the rival Syndicalist International or A.I.T., which was 
in process of being founded by those syndicates which had never 
made pacts with politicians and which had remained anti-militarist 
through the War. A few months later it formally adhered to it. 

Meanwhile a Congress of purely Anarchist groups held at Madrid 
had resolved that all Anarchists should enrol in the C.N.T. and treat 
it as their special field of action. Up to that time many had held aloof 
from the syndical organization which seemed to them to represent a 
narrowing of the conception of anarchism as a philosophy for all men: 
it was now urgent that they should bring their full influence to bear 
upon it if they did not wish to see it captured by the Bolshevists, who 
were practising their usual infiltration tactics. It was not so easy to 
resist the assaults of a party which had just carried out a successful 
revolution in Russia and was now reproaching the Spanish Anarchists 



184 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

for, of all things, their timidity and their pedantry. But in September 
of the following year the free development of all working-class move 
ments was arrested by Primo de Rivera's coup d'etat. Anticipating its 
forcible suppression, the C.N.T. met and formally dissolved itself. 
Their members enrolled in the sindicatos libres of the Dictator. 

This dissolution however was only a feint. The framework of the 
syndical organization remained. The closing of all libertarian centres 
and the suppression of its press early in 1924 compelled it to act in 
secret, but conferences, or plenos as they were called, of delegates 
from the regional federations sat regularly with the members of the 
National Committee and, as the Dictatorship drew to an end, col 
laborated with the political parties in bringing about its downfall. 1 

As this moment approached, preparations were made for the revo 
lutionary period which it was believed would follow it. Whilst Nin and 
Maurin were organizing from exile a tiny but active Communist 
party, the Anarchists founded in 1927 the Federation Anarquista 
Iberica, or RAJ., as it is invariably called. 2 With this the wheel of 
anarchist history swung full circle back to Bakunin and the Alliance of 
Social Democracy. For the F.A.L was a secret or semi-secret society 
composed exclusively of Anarchists. Its mission was to control and 
penetrate the syndicalist organization as soon as it should be re 
established. Comprising the leading militants from all over the 
country, men devoted heart and soul to the cause of the revolution, 
it would ensure that the mass of workers under its influence should 
incline neither towards reformism and co-operation with political 
parties, nor on the other hand towards Russian communism and the 
dictatorship of the proletariat. When in 1930, after the fall of Primo, 
the C.N.T. was allowed to re-establish itself, the Anarcho- Syndicalist 
forces reappeared stronger and more powerful than they had ever been. 3 

1 See Note I on p. 199 at end of chapter. 

a As the F.A.I, was a secret organization, no figures of its strength have been 
published. One may assume however that from 1934 to *93& its membership lay 
round about 10,000. Every member of the F.A.L had also to be a member of the 
C.N.T. and nearly, though not quite all the leading members of the C.N.T. were in 
the F.A.L The opposition to the F.A.L that grew up in 1931 and led to the formation 
of sindicatos de oposicion will be explained in a later chapter. 

3 General Mola, who in the interval between the flight of Primo de Rivera and the 
proclamation of the Republic was at the head of the police forces in the country, 
describes the extraordinary efficiency of the Anarcho- Syndicalist espionage. By 
means of their agents in the Post and Telegraph Offices they not merely opened any 
letters they chose, but were able to decipher code telegrams as well. Often, he 
said, the secret code instructions sent out by the Government to the Provincial 
Governors and Captains-General were published in Solidaridad Obrera a few hours 
after they had been despatched from Madrid. (Emilio Mola, Lo queyo Supe, p. 1 1 1.) 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 185 

They began to prepare, deliberately and systematically, for the social 
revolution. 

We have now traced the history of the Anarchist movement up to 
the commencement of the Republic. All that remains to be done is to 
draw one or two general conclusions. First its extension. From 
the very beginning, as we have seen, the peculiarity of Spanish 
Anarchism has consisted in its having two distinct roots the in 
dustrial workers of Catalonia and the agricultural workers of Andalusia. 
At first sight this might seem to be a rather unnatural partnership. 
For the Catalan workers were, at all events since 1920, the most 
highly paid workmen in Spain outside the Basque country. They had 
no better reason than any other body of workers in Europe to aim at 
revolution. But they were recruited to a great extent from the half- 
starving and embittered agricultural labourers of the south and east 
and penned up in the most unruly and excitable city in Europe. They 
were there subjected to the clumsy and heavy-handed rule of Castilian 
generals and governors and to the arbitrary and often barbarous 
action of the Spanish police, who are the best fomenters of anarchism. 
In spite of this they showed a persistent tendency towards the pure 
and, in practice, quite unrevolutionary syndicalism of the French 
C.G.T. Had Spain been able to solve her agrarian problems and 
settle down to ten or twenty years of peaceful development, this 
tendency would undoubtedly have prevailed. 

Rural anarchism has an altogether different character. It is the 
natural reaction to intolerable conditions and whenever those con 
ditions cease to be intolerable whenever, that is, one finds peasants 
owning or renting sufficient land to support them anarchism ceases. 
Thus in Catalonia the small peasants (the rabassaires) have never in 
spite of their serious grievances become Anarchists; they had a poli 
tical party of their own which gave its support to the Esquerra. In the 
same way the prosperous peasants of the irrigated vegas of Valencia 
and Castellon de la Plana belonged either to the Catholic Right or to 
one of the Republican parties, whilst the peasants or labourers of 
the equally fertile plain of Granada, though in constant and bitter 
struggle with the landowners, preferred Socialism. It was only the 
landless labourers and small peasants of Andalusia and the dry eastern 
regions, struggling with hostile geographical conditions, who em 
braced libertarian doctrines. They comprised, of course, the vast body 
of agricultural workers of the south and east, and as they had con 
stituted for a long time the chief labour market for Barcelona, they 



l86 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

kept up the fires of Catalan anarchism and drew from It the intellectual 
support and stimulus that impoverished rural communities cannot 
provide for themselves. It was this intimate connection with Catalan 
industry, as well as the inequality of wages and conditions in different 
parts of Spain, that prevented the growth of a peasants' union or party. 
Any government that wished to destroy anarchism in Spain would 
have therefore to do two things to solve the agrarian problem in the 
south and east and to allow greater scope to Catalan industry in 
developing these impoverished regions. So long as Castile has the 
last word in Spanish affairs, Andalusia is likely to remain what it is at 
present. 

There were of course other centres of anarchism in the Peninsula. 
In Madrid the C.N.T. was strongly represented in several unions, 
especially among the builders, but had no following in the rest of 
Castile. Saragossa had long been an Anarchist stronghold and had 
managed to throw a few offshoots into the surrounding districts : the 
vineyard workers of Rioja, on the edge of Navarre, were one of these. 
In Asturias the steel workers of Gijon and La Felguera formed 
Anarchist islands in a sea of Socialism: the effect of their environment 
was to make them incline to U.G.T. methods and discipline. In 
Galicia there was a rural libertarian movement and a strong Anarchist 
nucleus among the dock workers of Coranna, which reacted upon one 
another. These Galician Anarchists played an active part in prosely 
tizing South America. 1 Along the coasts of Spain fishermen, sailors 
and dock workers preferred Anarchism to Socialism. See the sketch 
map on p. 335. 

The effects of this curious distribution in field and factory were seen 
in July 1936 when the long desired revolution came. The Anarchists 
stood for a system of collectivization for agricultural workers which 
was well suited to conditions in Andalusia. But the greater part of 
Andalusia fell at once into the Nationalists' hands and when the 
Anarchists of the large industrial towns attempted to impose collec 
tivization upon Catalan peasants and Valencian rice growers, they 
met with strong opposition. The peasants, looking round for someone 
who would defend them against this unwanted revolution, found their 
champion in the Communists. 2 

And what had sixty years of Anarchist leadership brought to the 
workers? In the country districts, in spite of all the strikes and in- 

1 See Note J on p. 200 at end of chapter. 
* See Note K on p. 200 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 187 

surrections, it had achieved practically nothing. Whether agriculture 
was booming or slumping, the standard of living of the agricultural 
labourers in the south of Spain remained practically the same from 
1870 to 1936. The small peasants those that had survived the bad 
years were only better off because markets had improved. In the 
industrial towns, on the other hand, it had led to a great increase of 
wages. But so, with much less drum-beating and agitation, did 
Socialism. In this respect there was nothing to choose between them. 
As to its revolutionary achievements, they cannot be summed up so 
easily. Whilst Anarcho-Syndicalism had, as Maurin remarked, shown 
itself incomparably more effective than Socialism in creating a revolu 
tionary feeling and situation among the Spanish workers, it lacked the 
necessary qualities for carrying a revolution out. It expressed ad 
mirably the uncompromising resistance of Spanish workmen and 
peasants to the conditions that capitalist society imposed on them: it 
provided (on a small scale) wonderful examples of solidarity, of 
devotion to an ideal and of revolutionary fervour: its leaders were 
almost the only real revolutionaries left in Europe and yet its organi 
zation and its principles were such that it was condemned for ever to 
the role of Sisyphus. Even if a social revolution had by some means 
or other broken out, it would not have been a party that sought, as the 
Anarchists did, to destroy political power, but one which seized and 
used it, that would have come out on top. Thus while Anarcho- 
Syndicalism was extremely effective in harassing mild parliamentary 
governments, while the guerrilla warfare it maintained with the 
Second Republic did a great deal to discredit it and bring it down, 
while by weakening and undermining the Socialist party in power, it 
finally drove it into revolutionary channels at bottom, taken by 
itself alone, all its revolutionary airs were but play-acting and child 
ishness. When the despised U.G.T. rose at Oviedo in 1934 they 
shook the whole of Spain. The Anarcho-Syndicalists, through their 
spirit, their organization, their natural contrariness, were incapable of 
making a wide and concerted effort of this sort. Though they might 
frighten the more timid among the bourgeoisie, no government ever 
regarded them, in spite of their huge numbers, which mounted in 
times of excitement to a million or a million and a half, as anything 
more than a problem for the provincial governor and the police. 1 

1 In maintaining that the Anarchists were incapable of making their revolution, I 
am by no means implying that the Socialists were any better equipped for this. This 
is a question that will be discussed later. Meanwhile I would point out that there is 



jg8 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

This might seem to exhaust the subject of Spanish Anarchism. 
Ineffectual as a revolutionary force, only moderately successful in 
Improving the conditions of the workers, it has dogged and hampered 
every government, good or bad, well-intentioned or the reverse, that 
has existed in Spain. By playing always for the highest stakes, it has 
necessarily proved on many occasions the friend of reaction. But that 
cannot alter the fact that it has expressed something far more deeply 
seated than Socialism or Liberalism in the minds of the Spanish poor 
and that it has had for this reason a moral influence that will not 
easily be brushed away. It is this aspect of anarchism the moral and 
not the political that must now be considered. 

When one seeks to penetrate into the real meaning of the Spanish 
Anarchist movement one is struck, I think, by two main aspects that 
in practice fuse into one. There is first of all its strongly idealistic and 
moral-religious character. These anarchists are a set of men who are 
attempting to put into practice their Utopia (which is severe and almost 
ascetic like the old Jewish-Christian Utopia) at once, and, what is 
significant, by force. Secondly, they are Spanish villagers and work 
men who are trying, though without being consciously aware of it, to 
reconstruct the primitive agrarian conditions (in this case the collec- 
tivist commune) that once prevailed in many parts of Spain and to 
recover the equality and leisure, and above all the dignity, that, to a 
greater or lesser extent, they enjoyed in previous centuries. That is to 
say, Spanish Anarchism has, like Carlism, its atavistic side: in a 
certain measure it is an expression of nostalgia for the past and an 
attitude of resistance to the slavery which the modern capitalist struc 
ture of society and the strain of factory life bring with them. 

I will take first the moral-religious aspect. One might from this 
point of view describe anarchism as the Spanish Protestant (i.e. 
protesting) heresy from which the Inquisition in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries saved Spain. However violent these anarchists 
may be (and Cromwell's Independents were violent too) they speak 
the same language of love of liberty, of dependence upon the inner 

a certain analogy to be found in. the Napoleonic War. The French were driven out of 
Spain by the continual wearing action of the guerrilla bands (which, like the Anar 
chist forces of to-day, were a spontaneous expression of the revolutionary feeling of 
the people) acting in combination with a small but highly disciplined force. Neither 
of these would have sufficed alone. In the same way the Anarchists and Socialists 
might together, under favourable circumstances, have brought off a successful 
revolution. But in fact no such combination of the two working-class forces in 
Spain was ever practicable. It took nothing less than Franco's rising to bring it 
about. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 189 

light that Englishmen once used to do. And they are uncompromising 
moralists. Every action is for them either right or wrong; they admit 
no such thing as expediency. When Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell 
explained to his Anarchist friends at Malaga that their killings had 
made a bad impression in England which would perhaps affect the 
question of getting arms for the Republic 

What/ exclaimed these men of the F.A.I., do you mean to say 
that we should fail to do what we believe to be right merely because 
people in England disapprove of it ? * 

I can give another instance from my own experience. I was standing 
on a hill watching the smoke and flames of some two hundred houses 
in Malaga mount in to the sky. An old Anarchist of my acquaintance 
was standing beside me. 

4 What do you think of that?' he asked. 
I said: "They are burning down Malaga/ 

c Yes,' he said: 'they are burning it down. And I tell you not one 
stone will be left on another stone no, not a plant nor even a cabbage 
will grow there, so that there may be no more wickedness in the 
world.' 

It was the voice of Amos or Isaiah (though the old man had never 
read either) or of an English sectarian of the seventeenth century. 

The fanatical hatred of the Anarchists for the Church and the 
extraordinary violence of their attack upon it during the Civil War are 
things which are known to everyone. Without going far wrong one 
may say that all the churches recently burned in Spain were burned 
by Anarchists and that most of the priests killed were killed by them. 1 
Such a persecution of religion has not been known in Europe since the 
Thirty Years' War: the Russian Revolution provided nothing to 
compare to it. It can only, I think, be explained as the hatred of 
heretics for the Church from which they have sprung. For in the eyes 
of Spanish libertarians the Catholic Church occupies the position of 
Anti-Christ in the Christian world. It is far more to them than a mere 
obstacle to revolution. They see in it the fountain of all evil, the 
corruptor of youth with its vile doctrine of original sin, the blas 
phemer against Nature and the Law of Nature, which they call Salud 

1 J. Langdon Davies (in Behind the Barricades} speaks of the * anti-religious 
mysticism, of the Anarchists* and suggests that the churches in Catalonia were 
burned in July- August 1936 through fear of the Church's black magic. He agrees 
with all other observers that they were burned by small groups of men who came out 
from the towns for that purpose. Peadar O'Donnell (in Salud} watched a church in a 
Catalan village being burned by twenty men, with the silent disapproval of the villagers. 



igo THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

or Health. It is also the religion which mocks with its pretence of 
brotherly love and mutual forgiveness the great ideal of human soli 
darity. We forget, I think, our history when we show surprise at this 
anti-Papist violence. Between the decapitated saints in English 
churches and the broken altars and blackened walls in Spain there is 
only a difference of degree. 

But, one may ask, if Spanish Anarchism can be described, however 
loosely, as a religious heresy, how and at what moment did it secede 
from the Church? There are, I would suggest, two main classes of 
heresies first, those which arise as the result of a difference of 
opinion, when the Church, during the course of its development, is 
faced with some choice upon doctrinal matters. Of these Arianism, 
Monophysism and Pelagianism are examples. They appear when the 
body of doctrine in some particular sphere is still fluid. The Church 
chooses its line and those who do not submit become heretics. 
Secondly, there are those which come from a rebellion within the 
body of the Church against abuses against the failure of the priest 
hood to live up to its claims. If one of these should happen to take a 
doctrinal form it becomes far more dangerous, because it is fed by a 
spirit of indignation and because a genuinely religious emotion has a 
great advantage against a body that knows itself to be hypocritical and 
worldly. It was in this way that Lutheranism. gained its triumphs. 

But there is one sort of heresy belonging to this class of which both 
the Catholic and the Protestant Churches have always shown a quite 
peculiar terror. It is that which consists in taking literally the very 
frequent allusions in the Scriptures to the wickedness and consequent 
damnation of the rich and the blessedness of the poor. This had been 
the crime of the Circumcellians, a militant sect of the fourth century 
which sprang up on the African latifundia under much the same cir 
cumstances as the Spanish Anarchists, and it was also the crime of the 
Waldenses and of the Anabaptists. What the authorities could not 
forgive in these sects was the emphasis they laid on the social teaching 
of the Gospels. And it will be remembered with what almost insane 
fury Luther urged the destruction by fire and sword of those peasants 
who were compromising him by taking his teaching on Christian 
freedom in a literal sense. 

The reason for this violence is obvious. The Bible, and especially 
the New Testament, contains enough dynamite to blow up all the 
existing social systems in Europe, only by force of habit and through 
the power of beautiful and rhythmical words we have ceased to notice 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS igi 

it. An intelligent Chinaman has been more observant. Sun Yat Sen, 
when he visited Europe, was amazed that a religion which persistently 
extolled the poor and threatened and condemned the rich should be 
practised and maintained chiefly by the richest, most selfish and most 
respectable classes. The political skill and duplicity required for 
such a feat seemed to him to go far beyond anything that simple 
Orientals could run to. The danger has therefore always existed that 
any weakening in the influence of the Church, any desertion of the 
interests of the poor by the priesthood, would lead to a greater 
emphasis being placed upon the social principles of equality, volun 
tary poverty and brotherly love that, along with many other things, 
lie at the root of Christianity. 1 

And where were these conditions better fulfllied than in Andalusia 
in the last century? The poor labourer who bought one of those New 
Testaments which the British Bible Society provided for a few pence 
(and which have always sold so well in the south and east of Spain) 
could read, for example, what the Virgin Mary, the goddess of 
Andalusia, to whom every night when he took off his shirt he said a 
prayer, had felt upon these matters. In her great song of triumph, 
charged with an unmistakeable prophetic meaning, she had rejoiced 
that the mighty had been put down from their seats and the poor 
exalted, that the hungry had been filled with good things whilst 
the rich had been sent empty away. He might be forgiven for seeing in 
such words an expression of class feeling. 

I would suggest then that the anger of the Spanish Anarchists 
against the Church is the anger of an intensely religious people who 
feel they have been deserted and deceived. The priests and the monks 
left them at a critical moment in their history and went over to the 
rich. The humane and enlightened principles of the great theologians 
of the seventeenth century were set on one side. The people then 
began to suspect (and the new ideas brought in by Liberalism of 
course assisted them) that all the words of the Church were hypocrisy. 
When they took up the struggle for the Christian Utopia it was there 
fore against the Church and not with it. Even their violence might be 

1 The classic texts from the New Testament on which Christian communists have 
always relied are Qui habet duos tunicas, det unam non hdbenti and Compelle eos in- 
trare. The second text, which sanctions the use of force in matters of faith, has been 
found equally useful by the Church and by sects such as the Anabaptists, who 
anticipated many of the anarchist teachings. One may remember that Emilio 
Castelar, the most eloquent and cultured of all Spanish politicians, declared that he 
was a democrat because he saw in democracy 'the realization of the Gospel'. 



192 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

called religious. The Spanish Church, after all, has always been a 
Militant Church and down to the twentieth century it believed in 
destroying its enemies. No doubt the Anarchists felt that if only, by 
using the same methods, they could get rid of all who were not of their 
way of thinking, they would make a better job than the Church had 
done of introducing the earthly paradise. In Spain every creed as 
pires to be totalitarian. 1 

It may be thought that I have stressed too much the religious 
element because Spanish Anarchism is after all a political doctrine. 
But the aims of the Anarchists were always much wider and their 
teaching more personal than anything that can be included under the 
word politics. To individuals they offered a way of life : Anarchism had 
to be lived as well as worked for. To the community they offered a 
new world founded exclusively on moral principles. They never made 
the mistake of thinking, as the Socialists did, that this could be 
achieved merely by providing a higher standard of living all round. 
On the contrary, they were often ascetic and puritanical. I have 
already described how in some Anarchist collectives they endeavoured 
to suppress wine, tobacco and even coffee. This asceticism was ex 
tended to sex also. Anarchists, it is true, believe in free love every 
thing, even love, must be free but they do not believe in libertinage. 
So in Malaga they sent missions to the prostitutes. In Barcelona they 
cleaned up the cabarets and brothels with a thoroughness that the 
Spanish Church (which frowns on open vice, such as wearing a 
bathing dress without a skirt and sleeves, but shuts its eyes to 'safety- 
valves') would never approve of. 2 

Dr Borkenau, who in his book on the Civil War has given such an 
admirable account of the Spanish Anarchists, particularly stresses this. 3 

1 Possibly my argument is not clear. I do not deny that the new ideas brought in 
from Rousseau, Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin and so on have a source independent 
of the teachings of the Church. But if that were all that Spanish Anarchism contained 
it would be a very different kind of movement. The point I wish to make is that the 
emotion behind these anarchists, especially the more primitive ones of the Andalusian 
Valley, is derived from the social teaching of the Church and from familiarity with a 
certain strain of feeling to be found in both the New and the Old Testaments. After 
all, the history of Christianity is, from one point of view, the history of the capture 
by the Pharisees of the religion of their enemy Jesus, who taught his gospel of 
salvation to the oppressed and the poor. 

2 See Note L on p. 200 at end of chapter. 

3 ' Anarchism is a religious movement. It does not believe in the creation of a new 
world through the improvement of the material conditions of the lower classes, but 
in the creation of a new world out of the moral resurrection of those classes which 
have not yet been contaminated by the spirit of greed and mammon* (F. Borkenau 
The Spanish Cockpit, 1937). 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 193 

Their hatred of the upper classes, he declares, is far less econo 
mic than moral. They do not want to possess themselves of the 
good living of those they have expropriated, but to get rid of their 
luxuries, which seem to them to be so many vices. And anyone who 
has lived for long in a Spanish village, even in one which has not been 
affected by anarchist ideas, will have noticed how characteristic is 
this disapproval of even the most elementary luxury. The vices of the 
men of to-day, the stern virtues of their forefathers are constantly 
cropping up in their conversation. Smoking, though general, is always 
condemned, and it is common to hear workmen boasting of the few 
pence a day they can live on. After all it was Don Quixote who, in his 
rapturous account of the Golden Age and of the state of felicity in 
which the men of old lived, declared that they nourished themselves 
on acorns. 

It is hardly necessary to point out how completely the Anarchists 
differed in this from the Socialists and Communists. They would have 
nothing to do with the Marxian dialectic or with the body of theory 
and dogma built up on it. The strict discipline of the Communists and 
their practice of subordinating moral principles to expediency were 
regarded by them as Jesuitical. They themselves relied upon that very 
Spanish thing acting from instinct. Any plan, any order, any ar 
rangement that fettered the instinct was wrong. Once the battle was 
opened, they went straight forward, following their inner light or 
nature, behaving with extraordinary daring or with complete cowar 
dice as they felt inclined: at certain moments magnificent, but if the 
conditions demanded a cohesion or a resistance they could not give, 
becoming unreliable. This had been the principle of the partidas or 
guerrilla bands in the Napoleonic War. If anyone doubts that much 
of what is called * anarchist' to-day is merely unadulterated Iberian, 
let him compare the famous call for * organized indiscipline' pasted up 
by the F.A.I, on the walls of Barcelona in August 1936, at the time 
when Durruti's column was getting ready for its march on Saragossa, 
with this description by an intelligent eyewitness of the organization 
of the guerrilla war against Napoleon. 

' After the regular armies had all been beaten . . . one saw growing up 
a system of war in detail, a kind of organized disorder which perfectly 
suited the unconquerable character of the Spanish nation and the 
unhappy circumstances in which it found itself.' 1 

Their other quarrel with the Communists was over liberty. Marx 
1 See Note M on p. 201 at end of chapter. 



194 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

had diagnosed the troubles of the world as being due to greed. The 
fundamental sin to him was owning property. The Anarchists agreed 
to this, but added that there is a second even more fundamental sin, 
which is love of power. They pointed out that the abolition of private 
property in Russia had led to an increase of tyranny. And it was 
precisely against the economic tyranny of the modern capitalist world, 
and only in the second place against inequality of income, that they 
made their protest. 1 

The Anarchists stand then above everything else for liberty. But 
here the dilemma comes. These stem moralists, these children of the 
categorical imperative, disapprove of the present organization of 
society. But what is it they demand ? They demand that everyone 
shall be free. Free to do what? Why free to lead the natural life, to 
live on fruit and vegetables, to work at the collective farm, to conduct 
himself in the way that Anarchists consider proper. But if he does not 
want to do these things, if he wants to drink wine, to go to Mass, to 
dig in his own field and refuse the benefits brought into the world by 
comunismo libertario, what then ? Why then he is one of los malos, los 
perversos, possibly curable but, if he does not come from a working- 
class family, more likely corrupt and vicious out of upbringing or 
heredity, and therefore unfit to partake of the Anarchist paradise. A 
bullet in the head for this companero without hate, of course, without 
hate. He can smoke a last cigarette before dying. After all, com- 
panerOy death is nothing. 

That then would seem to be the practical consequence of anarchism. 
Many people whose sympathies have been captured by the Spanish 
anarchists, who have been moved by their heroic idealism and charmed 
by their sincerity and open-mindedness, forget that there is this other 
side to the picture. Anarchism, which puts freedom above everything 
else, may easily lead in practice to the worst tyranny. No one can 
doubt that if the Anarchists had won the Civil War they would have 
imposed their will not merely upon the bourgeoisie, but on the peasants 
and factory workers too with complete ruthlessness. There were many 
indications that in the country districts this would have led to a new 
sort of caciquismo, 

For this is the tragic paradox of Spanish Anarchism. It aims at 

1 On 27 January 1935 the National Committee of the C.N.T. published this 
statement, aimed at the Communists, in Solidaridad Obrera: 'Tyranny and crime 
are equally deserving of condemnation no matter whether they exist under the red- 
yellow flag of the Monarchy or in the name of the tricolour of the Republic or even 
under the red banner of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat/ 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 195 

reaching by violence a state from which even the mildest form of 
compulsion is to be excluded. The wicked who have so long oppressed 
the earth are to be eliminated and then the age of peace and mutual 
tolerance will automatically begin. Such hopes are surely not to be 
taken seriously. It argues a great deal of simplicity to believe that out 
of the welter of violent revolution in a modern country such a state 
less form of society could appear. Only in small towns or in villages 
where the immense majority were labourers or poor peasants, pre 
pared to work their land in common, would anything of the kind be 
possible. But what in the mind of Bakunin was a mere revolutionary's 
day-dream has appealed to Spaniards precisely because they are ac 
customed to think so much in terms of their own village. A change, 
that in a highly organized community would be quite Utopian, might 
be feasible here. When therefore the Anarchist says, c to introduce the 
Golden Age you have only to kill the wicked who prevent the good 
from living as they wish to ', there is always at the back of his mind the 
village with its three thousand small peasants and landless labourers. 
By getting rid of a dozen landowners and a priest, the rest can divide 
up the land and live happily. And there is nothing illusory in such a 
belief. Anyone who has known the Spanish poor will agree that by 
their kindly and generous feelings for one another and by the talent 
they have so often shown for co-operation they are perfectly fitted for 
playing their part in an 'anarchist commune'. The Berbers of the 
Moroccan highlands, who are first cousins to the Iberians, have for 
thousands of years lived in small independent communes whose or 
ganization is purely anarchistic. 

With this applicability of the libertarian idea to village life we reach, 
I think, the other root of Spanish Anarchism besides the religious one. 
For if anarchism is, in one sense, a Utopian conception of life that 
opens out its arms to the future, it is also true that the Anarchists 
have, like the Carlists, their inner eye upon the past. Rural anarchism 
is quite simply the attempt to recreate the primitive Spanish com 
munes that existed in many parts of Spain in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. To-day they call them collectives, but till the 
Russians invented this word and modern machinery gave them a new 
scope, it was the old commune where the land was divided every few 
years by lot that they hankered for. 

In Appendix I, I describe some of these communes and show how 
indistinguishable in nearly all respects a Carlist municipality of the 
Pyrenees with its extensive social services can be from an Anarchist 



196 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

fishermen's collective In Catalonia. 1 Anarchism, I would then say, 

has simply rekindled the perennial instinct of the Spanish peasant, 
who believes that his life in the past was better in every way than it is 
now and who wishes to return to it. There has not been a peasant 
rising in Andalusia in the last hundred years when the villages did not 
form communes, divide up the land, abolish money and declare them 
selves independent free that is from the interference of * foreign' 
landlords and police. 2 

And the anarchism of the industrial workers is not very different. 
They ask, first of all for self-government for their industrial village or 
syndicate and then for a shortening of the hours, a reduction in the 
quantity of the work. They ask for more liberty and more leisure and 
above all more respect for human dignity, but not necessarily a higher 
standard of living. 3 After all, that is simply another way of saying that 
they wish for a return to the empty, leisurely conditions of the seven 
teenth century, when, at the expense of their stomachs, the workmen 
in the towns still retained their innate dignity and freedom and had 
not been crushed and dehumanized by factory life. Thus Spanish 
Anarchism, though seeming to look forward only to the future, is in 
fact dominated by that nostalgia for the past that is so characteristic of 
Spain. The Siglo de Oro the age of glory for the educated classes, 
the age of liberty and leisure for all is the Golden Age to which most 
Spaniards would willingly return and, without plunging too far into 
the unconscious, one may suspect that behind it stands the Pastoral 
Age, when men stood and watched their flocks by day and meditated 
like Hebrew prophets upon Vice and Virtue, upon Fate and God, 
whilst the toil and degradation of the agricultural life was left to others. 

We have come here, I think, to the precise significance of Spanish 
Anarchism and its value both to Spain and (though this may seem 
absurd) to Europe. It voices more clearly and intelligently than any 
other Iberian movement the resistance offered by the whole Spanish 
people to the tyranny and soullessness of the modern machine-serving 
age. Unlike Carlism, which (in so far as it still means anything at all) 
turns its back upon modernity altogether, it accepts the benefits to be 
obtained from machine production, but it insists that nothing what- 

1 See Note N on p. 201 at end of chapter. 

2 Mr Langdon Davies has put his finger on this fundamental notion of rural 
anarchism: * There it is again, this constantly recurring Spanish theme of philoso 
phical anarchism, this practical experience that if nobody interfered all went well * 
(Behind the Barricades, p. 71). 

3 See Note O on p. 202 at end of chapter. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 197 

ever should curtail the right of all men to lead dignified human lives. 
There must be no sacrifice to Moloch. In the choice that has to be 
made between a higher standard of comfort and a greater amount of 
leisure, it emphatically selects the second. And this is not out of any 
preference for idleness. It is because Spanish Anarchism is an ascetic 
creed, which places the spiritual things of life above material comforts 
and knows that leisure is required for their development. In this it is 
intensely Spanish. For two centuries and more the Spanish pueblo, 
as every traveller since the eighteenth century has observed, has been 
the repository of the virtues and traditions of the race, abandoned by 
the effete upper classes. To-day few but the poor can speak with the 
authentic voice of Spain. 'The surface of our country constantly 
decays', said Canovas, 'but never the depths.* And so the Spanish 
Anarchist movement, narrow, ignorant, often terribly ruthless, hol 
ding with uncompromising determination and unfailing optimism 
utterly impractical designs, is not only the most c Hispanic * thing 
south of the Pyrenees, but it contains principles which must, in 
however modified a form, be recognized and satisfied if Spain is to 
become once again a great and united nation. Had a true national 
leader ever appeared, he would have seen this. For what Spain has 
to give Europe will not be given by imitating the forms of the more 
highly organized but in many respects less vital nations round her 
forms which in any case she would be quite unable to make use of 
but by developing within herself her own seeds of life. This can only 
be done by having some regard for what the people want. During 
more than a century now the weakness of Spain has come from the 
fact that every government has had the great mass of the people 
against it. 

FURTHER NOTES TO CHAPTER VIII 

A (p. 172). The matrix of the C.N.T. was the Confederaddn Regional del Trabajo 
of Catalonia. A Galician Regional Confederation joined this and others followed. 
The full number, eight, was not reached till the period of the Republic. The veteran 
Anselmo Lorenzo played a large part in winning over the editors of Tierray Libertad 
and other anarchist groups to the new idea. From the first moment all the delegates 
at the regional and national Congresses were Anarchists. 

B (p. 172). The C.N.T. was organized in regional federations which held yearly 
congresses. Under these came the local or comarcal federations and then the 
syndicates. Each syndicate elected its executive and administrative committee. In 
the small towns the syndicates were organized on a local basis and in the large towns 
by trades. When, owing to Government persecution, congresses were forbidden, 
delegates were sent by the local or regional federations to a plena. The very small 
subscription required for membership of the C.N.T. (and in impoverished districts 



198 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

often remitted) was an advantage to it in its competition with the U.G.T. Poor men 
joined the union which cost them least. On the other hand men in regular employ 
ment preferred the U.G.T. because it did not call them out so often on strike. 

C (p. 174). Diaz del Moral (op. tit. p. 204), speaking of the innocence of many 
Andalusian Anarchists, gives the following extract from one of their pamphlets : * On 
this planet there exist infinite accumulations of riches which, without any monopoly, 
are enough to assure the happiness of all human beings. We all of us have the right to 
well-being, and when Anarchy comes in, we shall every one of us take from the 
common store whatever we need: men, without distinction, will be happy: love will 
be the only law in social relations. How shall we secure all this ? By putting an end 
to authority and property, the foundations of inequality and the only sources of evil 
and of injustice: by organizing production through the free agreement of individuals 
and of groups, who will come together in accordance with their natural affinities.' 

Commenting on this Moral remarks that one continually finds Anarchists who 
believe that the day of libertarian communism would bring happiness to the rich as 
well as to the poor. 

* Senorito, when will the great day come?' a poor man asked a senator in 1903. 

* What day?' 

* Why the day on which we shall all be equal and when the earth will be divided up 
equally among all.' 

From my own experience I can fully confirm this. 

*The rich will gain, too', an Anarchist friend of mine declared in June 1936. 
*When comuntsmo libertario comes in they will see that their riches have been as 
much an obstacle to their happiness as to ours. Except for a few perverts, all human 
beings prefer to live healthy and decent lives, if they are given the opportunity. But the 
propaganda of the Church and of the political parties has closed their minds to this.* 

Nothing is more surprising, nor more touching, than this belief that the rich may 
some day see the light and be converted. It is a consequence of their absolute con 
viction that they are in the right and that, in the end, truth and reason must prevail. 

D (p. 174). The books most read were The Conquest of Bread by Kropotkin, El 
Dolor Universal by Sebastien Faure and a novel called El Boton de Fuego (The Fire 
Button) by Lopez Montenegro. Anselrno Lorenzo wrote novelettes in imitation of 
Candide with an anarchist moral. Other favourite writers were Elise"e Reclus, 
Charles Malato, Malatesta, Grave, Most and several Spaniards Federico Urales, 
Soledad Gustavo, Ricardo Mella, Leopoldo Bonafulla, Jose" Prat. 

Old-fashioned books such as The Ruins of Palmyra by Volney were also popular. 
Editions costing 30 or 50 centimes frequently reached a circulation of 50,000. 

E (p. 177). Manuel de Burgos y Mazo, in his Pdginas Historicas deigij (pp. 79-83), 
quotes in full the Anarcho-Syndicalist programme issued in Barcelona for the 1917 
strike. This, it will be remembered, was the general strike declared all over Spain 
under the leadership of the U.G.T. with the object of overthrowing the regime. Its 
principal points were : 

i. A Republic. 

z. Recognition of working-class syndicates and their power to veto laws passed by 
the bourgeois Cortes. 

3. A seven-hour day and an English week. 

4. A minimum wage of 4 pesetas a day and no piece-work. 

5. Pensions for disabled workmen and for those over 50. 

6. Children under 14 not to work. 

7. The dissolution of the Army and its substitution by a militia. 

8. A declaration of war to come only after a plebiscite, and those who vote for it 
to be enlisted first. 

9. Separation of Church and State, dissolution of convents and the closure of the 
churches for a certain period. 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 199 

10. Divorce laws. 

11. Nationalization of land. 

12. Reforms in the prison system to make it more humane. 

13. Prohibition of all festivals (e.g. bullfights and indecent cabarets) which can. 
brutalize the people. 

It was expressly stated that this was neither a minimum nor a maximum pro 
gramme, but intended to indicate a direction. 

This programme might seem to show that the Anarcho-Syndicalists were, after all, 
prepared in return for a few not unreasonable concessions to accept a bourgeois 
government. One must bear in mind, however, that the demands put forward by 
them in their strikes often meant very little. They anticipated Hitler in proceeding at 
once to fresh claims the moment those previously put forward had been granted. 
That is to say, they never lost sight of their revolutionary goal. On the other hand, 
as the standard of living of the workers rose, they showed less disposition to follow 
their leaders, except when the weakness of the Government or some new grievance 
such as the imprisonment of their comrades provided an incentive. There has been a 
steady tendency in Barcelona since 1919 towards reformism. Indeed the revolu 
tionary movement could scarcely have been kept alive but for the continued influx of 
poor villagers from the parched regions of the Levante. In its roots Spanish 
Anarchism is rural. 

F (p. 177). The Anarchist press claimed that this Congress at Madrid represented 
800,000 workers. Pestana gave the same number for the membership of the C.N.T. 
at the time of its provisional adherence to the Third International, though stating 
that it sometimes contained a million. In the proceedings of the Congress the 
number which it represented is given as 550,000 of whom 500,000 were federated. 
See C.N.T. Memoria del Congreso de 1919, 1932. But many organizations abstained 
from voting or from sending delegates, especially in country districts, either because 
they could not afford to pay their expenses or for other reasons, whilst others never 
enrolled in the C.N.T. , though acting under its influence. Altogether one may say 
that if there were moments when the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement was leading 
from a million to a million and a half workers, its core of persistently faithful ad 
herents did not exceed 200,000. The U.G.T. claimed at this time 250,000. 

As to the distribution of the Anarcho-Syndicalists through Spain, the Memoria del 
Congreso de 1919 gives the following figures of affiliated members: Catalonia 
427,000; Levante 132,000; Andalusia 91,000; North (including Galicia) 29,000; 
Aragon 15,000; Centre 4500 (to which one must add 22,000, i.e. all the Madrid 
workers, not affiliated); Balearic Islands 1000. 

The comparatively small number from Andalusia and the Levante is probably due 
to the fact that the movement there had been suppressed a few months before by the 
military and the syndicates declared illegal. Even so, 124 towns in Andalusia were 
represented as compared to 95 in the Levante and 105 in Catalonia. 

G (p. 178). During the strike of the Canadiense in 1918 a Red censorship had been 
very effectively applied. For publishing an official proclamation by the Captain- 
General of Catalonia the Diario de Barcelona was fined 1000 pesetas and El Progreso 
2500. The fines were paid ; if not all the workers on these papers would have gone on 
strike. 

H (p. 178). On the question of fusion with the U.G.T., the voting was 170,000 for 
and 324,000 against. The Asturians favoured it, Catalonia and Andalusia opposed it. 
On the question of introducing the sindicato unico> 651,000 were for it and 14,000 
against it. (C.N.T. Memoria del Congreso de 1919. Also Buenacasa, op. cit. p. 98.) 

I (p. 184). In 1928 the Comite National of the C.N.T. held zpleno and appointed 
committees of action which entered into negotiations with Sanchez Guerra, the 
Conservative ex-premier, who was plotting against the Dictatorship. This was 



200 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

the Comite National's method of conspiring with politicians without committing 
itself. At another plena in February 1930, just after the flight of Primo to Paris, 
a resolution was passed calling for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, the 
re-establishment of constitutional decrees, an eight-hour day and the liberation of 
all political prisoners. (Un Ano de Conspiradon, by B. Pou and J. R. Magrina, 
pp. 117-130.) 

That this was merely a tactical move and not a sudden conversion to reformism, 
events were soon to prove. At all events this flirtation with the Republicans did not 
prevent Solidaridad Obrera from publishing some documents on the projected re 
volutionary movement of 28 October 1930, which led to its being put off two months. 

J (p. 186). One should not forget that Spanish Anarchism was merely one branch of 

a world-wide movement that had active adherents in almost all the Latin American 
republics and especially in the Argentine, Uruguay and Bolivia. There was a con 
stant intercourse between the Anarchists in these countries and in Spain, and, 
particularly in times of repression or severe press censorship, South American 
Anarchist newspapers circulated freely in Catalonia and Andalusia. The Spanish 
working classes were really far more pan-Iberian in their outlook than either the 
Socialists or the bourgeoisie. 

K (p. 1 86). The geographical division between Socialism and Anarchism corre 
sponds of course to a great natural difference of climate, culture and character. The 
men of the south and east are optimistic, expansive, impressionable, easily roused 
and quick to subside : those of the central tableland are slower, more rigid, inclined 
to pessimism : aware, through the dominating role which their State has played in 
Spanish history, of the importance of strong government and organization. The first 
are pleasure-loving, artistic, given to commerce, with Oriental and Mediterranean 
traditions: the others, if not exactly ascetic, are conscientious formed through 
many centuries on the doctrine of original sin. Socialism can be explained as a 
development of Castilian bureaucratic ideas of the sixteenth century. Anarchism, 
though intensely Spanish too, has something of the flavour of an evangelical Pro 
testant heresy which the Inquisition (the servant of Castilian centralism) kept out. 

L (p. 192). The Anarchists were genuinely shocked by the morals of the Spanish 
bourgeoisie. Replying to accusations that they wished to destroy the family, they 
protested that the people who said this had almost without exception mistresses or 
else lived in the worst vice : that indeed every member of the Government lived in 
that way but that they on the contrary wished the family to be based on love and on 
feelings of honourable reciprocity. 

We know of nothing more cynical and repugnant, nothing more dangerous to 
public morals than the private lives of the champions of religion, property and 
family.' (Ansekno Lorenzo, op. tit.} 

Anarchists, on the other hand, were expected to give a good example. According 
to Solidaridad Obrera (1922) the Anarchist should set out to have a moral ascendancy 
over others ; he must obtain prestige in the eyes of the workers by his conduct in the 
street, in the workshop, in his own home and in strikes. Difficult though it might be 
in present society, Anarchism must be lived by Anarchists. 

As regards other forms of puritanism, Diaz del Moral contrasts the Anarcho- 
Syndicalist organizations in Andalusia in 1918 with those of the Socialists. The 
Anarchists neither smoked nor drank. The Casas del Pueblo had taverns which were 
called restaurants. The Anarchists thought that the only thing that prevented 
everyone from thinking as they did was lack of education. They therefore attached 
great importance to schools and generally set up one in their centra. The Socialists 
thought that education was a matter for the State. Anarchist newspapers never 
inserted bourgeois advertisements nor paid their union leaders. The Socialists did 
both these things and, in the poorer parts of Spain, lost by it. The Anarchists 



THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 201 

opposed cock fights and bull fights. They stood for the protection of 'women, 
children, old men, trees and animals'. The Socialists merely frowned on gambling. 
This was the time when, especially in the south of Spain, naturism and vegetarianism 
were making many conquests in Anarchist circles. They were believed to have mar 
vellous powers for transforming human beings and preparing them for the ineffable 
acrada which, after a few centuries of effort, would arise upon the earth. 

Time did not change these dispositions. When in 1937 Dr Borkenau visited Castro 
del Rio (* one of the holy places of Syndicalism ', as Diaz del Moral calls it) he found 
that the Anarchists there had abolished money payments and closed the bar and were 
looking forward to the moment when all the coffee would be used up. 

M (p. 193). Memoires sur la Guerre des FranfatsenEspagne, by A. J. de Rocca, 1814, 
p. 139. De Rocca was a young Swiss officer who married Madame de Stael. Put 
beside the quotation from de Rocca the following: * The Spanish pueblo, guided by 
its instinct, the product of its libertarian nature, which permits it without leaders to 
tackle and solve the most arduous problems . . . threw itself of its own accord into the 
most disconcerting Revolution which the history of popular commotions has ever 
known.* 

That is the somewhat fanciful description by Cdnovas Cervantes of the very 
minor part played by the Anarchists in the 1934 rising. {Solidaridad Obrera, p. 3 13.) 

And just as de Rocca's phrase throws light upon modem Anarchist methods of war, 
so this passage from a libertarian writer perfectly expresses the spirit that led to the 
formation of the guerrilla bands in 1810. Yet the Anarchists had not been afraid at 
times to call themselves the Party of Order. At Cordova they had published a paper 
called Orden. A propagandist book came out with the title Anarchy or the Friends 
of Order. By this they meant of course that all disorder came from the principle 
of authority. 

N (p. 196). In Appendix I on Village Communes and Co-operatives there is a 
description of three of these collectivist communes with some account of their 
origin. But it is not only on the economic but on the political side also that the 
anarchist movement marks a return towards mediaeval institutions. When the 
military rising took place in July 1936 every village in the anarchist districts of 
Spain threw off its municipality and began to govern itself through its syndicate. 
This syndicate was simply an assembly consisting of every able-bodied man and 
woman in the village who belonged to the working classes, whether he was a member 
of the C.N.T. or not. They met one evening a week and for several hours discussed 
village problems. Anyone who chose had the right to speak. The syndicate elected a 
committee which governed the village and was responsible to it, as a British cabinet 
is to Parliament. 

This system was not a sudden invention. Many times during the past seventy 
years, whenever the success of a strike or a rising had made it possible, similar 
bodies had arisen and taken over the government of the village. The only thing to 
cause surprise was the ease and spontaneity with which these syndicates appeared and 
the deep satisfaction they gave to the small peasants and labourers. The whole thing 
worked as naturally as though the village had never managed its affairs in anyotherway. 

This leads one to enquire whether this system of village administration was really 
an Anarchist invention. On the contrary, the syndicate and committee of 1936 were 
in all respects identical to the concejo abierto and cabildo of mediaeval Spanish com 
munes. For the mediaeval town or village in Spain was governed by an assembly of 
all the adult men of the district, called the concejo abierto, and this assembly, which 
had full powers of debate, elected the municipal officers who in their collective 
capacity were called the cabildo. As time passed various abuses crept in: the nobles 
obtained hereditary posts in the cabildo or bought votes like the caciques of later 
days : the King, to resist the influence of the nobles and increase his own, appointed 
special officers termed corregidores. The democratic character of the municipalities 



202 THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALISTS 

was lost. By 1500 the concefos abiertos had ceased to meet in the towns except for the 

perfunctory ceremony of electing the cabildo. But in the small villages this decay did 
not take place and down to the middle of the eighteenth century they preserved, in 
the words of Ballesteros, *all the early fragrance of the mediaeval institution'. 
Indeed in some parts of Castile and Leon they continued to exist down to the 
twentieth century: in 1891 a law was drawn up to give them legal status. 

Thus again one finds the Anarchists hastening to restore the groundwork of local 
life from which Spain in the days of her greatness had sprung. And this was not, 
like certain aspects of Carlist or Falangist theory, an archaeological restoration. The 
Anarchists are quite unaware that they have any links with the past. But their creed 
has happened to express the extraordinarily tenacious desires and memories of a 
large part of that most conservative of all European peoples the Spanish pueblo. 
Hence its success. Hence too that apparent negativeness, that belief in mere de 
struction that strikes most observers: Spanish workers and anarchists are as one in 
believing that as soon as certain obstructions are removed, society will automatically 
organize itself in free communes: it is a belief based not upon theory or upon 
Bakunin's famous phrase, but upon actual peasant experience. 

(p. 1 96). After pointing out that the working classes have become living machines, 
Anselmo Lorenzo goes on: e . . .We have asked that the hours of work should be 
shortened, because we need liberty in which to think, to study, to take up our 
responsibility as citizens,. . .to satisfy our moral instincts. The shortening of the 
hours of work is not idleness* (El Proletariado MiUtante, vol. I, 1901, p. 327). 

Tomis Gonzalez Morago, the first of the small group converted by Fanelli, also 
insists upon the loss of human, dignity suffered by the workmen under factory 
conditions: 'Disequality is an ignominy that destroys human solidarity as the 
reason conceives it and fraternity as religion teaches it, and there neither is nor can 
be any material advantage capable of washing out its stain* (quoted, op. cit. p. 99). 

If one then reads some seventeenth-century book such as Brunei's Voyage en 
Espagne or the Relations of the Venetian Ambassadors one will find that the Spaniards 
of that time showed exactly the same preoccupation with dignity the peasant 
ploughing with a sword dangling from his waist, the cobbler and the mason treating 
the grandee as their equal, the beggars expecting to be addressed as Your Worship. 
And one will find the same demand for leisure too, though it would not seem that 
this leisure was invariably spent in study or in 'cultivating the moral instincts'. 

1 do not of course mean to assert that the poorer peasants, serfs and landless 
labourers of this time enjoyed much of this liberty and dignity. There existed then, 
as to-day, a down-trodden layer that had few rights or liberties. For the most part 
they consisted of the descendants of Moors, Jews or gypsies and their associates 
people of * impure blood* and therefore outside the pale and even if their descent 
happened to be Christian, the fact that they had sunk to the lowest social level 
possibly through their preferring regular hard work to the uncertain Hfe of a cabal- 
lero mendiamte or beggar would automatically cast doubts upon it. But it is clear 
that the artisan class, the servant or retainer class and large sections of the manual 
labourers and peasants enjoyed, for all their poverty, a degree of liberty and leisure 
that has left a deep and ineffaceable mark upon the character of the Spanish people. 

The desire of the Anarchists for weak governments can be explained in the same 
way. Even in Philip IFs time the Government had only a very limited control of 
internal affairs and until 1700, when Louis XIV sent Frenchmen to reorganize the 
administration, it was weaker and milder than in any other country in Europe. 
Spain, like China, has always refused to put up with a strong and efficient adminis 
tration, finding its real strength in the solidarity of the people and in their adherence 
to Spanish (i.e. religious) culture. The following quotation from Solidaridad Obrera, 
September 1936, is therefore merely one more instance of the exaggerated "his- 
panicity* of the Anarchists: 'Only weak nations have strong governments. To-day 
Spam has a weak government with no influence because the people themselves are 
going into action.* 



Chapter IX 
THE CARLISTS 

Una grey y un pastor solo en el suelo, 
Un monarca, y un imperio y una espada. 

HJEKNANDO DE ACUNA, 1540. 

The Carlists first appear on the scene in 1823. In the summer of that 
year a French army marched Into Spain to put down the chaotic 
constitutional regime and earn, in Chateaubriand's words, un bafteme 
de gloire for the French Bourbon dynasty. But Louis XVIII had no 
wish to restore the old disreputable absolutism. He had Ferdinand's 
promise that he would give his country a charte or moderate consti 
tution. When therefore Ferdinand VII proceeded to break his word 
and to let loose a ferocious persecution on the Liberals, the French 
king was placed in a difficult position. Protests produced no effect: to 
use force against the fanatical power of the Church seemed dangerous. 
But for the sake of his reputation abroad he was compelled to insist 
upon one thing that the Inquisition should not be restored. Fer 
dinand was therefore compelled to dismiss Ms clerical minister, Victor 
Saez, which he did by making him an archbishop, and to content 
himself with what he wanted most & few thousand executions. 

But Saez did not resign himself to this 'betrayal of our Holy 
Religion'. He collected round him a party, known as the Apostolicos, 
who demanded two things the restoration of the Inquisition and the 
complete extirpation of the Liberals. The majority of the bishops and 
many of the courtiers joined it and it was planned to depose Ferdinand 
and to place his stupid and fanatical brother Carlos on the throne. 
This plan led to a rising in Catalonia, which was put down, but the 
responsibility of the real leaders was hushed up in return for a 
promise to cease plotting and await the death of the King. Ferdinand 
was a widower with no children and, since his health was bad and his 
life dissolute, it was not expected he could live for long. But a few 
years later the situation suddenly changed. The King took a third 
wife, Maria Cristina of Naples, and a daughter, Isabella, was born. 
This happened at a moment when the July Revolution had destroyed 
all hope of armed support for the Carlist party from France. Then the 
King died, leaving the throne to Isabella and appointing his widow as 
regent. Even before the 'cork of the beer bottle', as Ferdinand called 



204 THE CARLISTS 

himself, had blown off, the Bishop of Leon and the Jesuits had called 
out the Carlist bands in Castile. A civil war, which was to last for 
seven years and to produce effects that would be felt for a whole 
generation, had begun. 

Don Carlos* claim to the throne rested upon the question of whether 
the Salic Law, which had from all time regulated the right of suc 
cession in the Bourbon family, should apply in a country such as 
Spain which had never admitted that law. It was true that, at the 
time of the Treaty of Utrecht, Philip V had issued a decree by which 
it was declared that the throne could not descend through the female 
line, nor could any prince bom out of Spain inherit it. The object of 
this decree was to prevent any possibility of the union of the Crowns 
of France and Spain. But some seventy years later, when this pos 
sibility had vanished, Charles IV, who had been bom in Naples, 
called a secret meeting of the Cortes to ratify his abrogation of this 
decree. This Pragmatic Sanction, as the document was called, was 
published in 1830 by Ferdinand. Thus even if, as the Carlists main 
tained, one king could not with the assent of the Cortes annul the decree 
of another, Don Carlos was still not the rightful heir, for his father, 
having been born out of Spain, had no legitimate right to the throne. 

But the strength of the Carlists did not depend upon legal quibbles 
such as these. The cause which had drawn them together was far 
more important than the succession of this or that dynasty. They were 
taking up arms against Liberalism, which in their eyes was but a 
second wave of the old Lutheran heresy, to resist which Spain in the 
past had given her life-blood. Any concession to the new ideas, any 
mitigation of the old Church and State absolutism would, they saw, 
let in the poison. What they did not see was that the times had 
changed and that it was impossible to use against Liberalism the same 
weapons that Philip II had used against the Protestants. 

They made another mistake. Luther's attack on the Church had 
stimulated its latent energies and produced a movement so rich and 
overflowing in human and religious feeling that it scarcely needed an 
Inquisition to support it. But the Church in 1830 no longer possessed 
these energies : both in Spain and in Rome it lacked the moral and the 
intellectual power to react positively and so was driven back to a 
purely negative position. The Carlists therefore had no policy but to 
return to the seventeenth century. 

It was of course natural that at this moment, when Spain was called 
upon to leave the cave in which, like Segismundo, she had so long 



THE CARLISTS 205 

been dreaming and to step out into the dangers of the modem world 
and steer her way among its winds of doctrine, there should have been 
a moment of giddiness and panic and a desire to return to the safety 
and tranquillity of the past. That giddiness is the essence of Carlism. 
It is a longing for the past because the past gave unity. * One flock, 
one earthly shepherd, one monarch, one empire and one sword/ The 
couplet by the sixteenth-century poet which stands at the head of this 
chapter sums up the Carlist ideal. And looking back to-day a Spaniard 
who could forget for a moment the existence of Europe and the inevi 
table march of time might well regret the Liberal victory, for if the 
Carlists had had their way none of the civil wars, none of the discords 
and divisions that have since rent Spain would have occurred. For 
Carlism meant ideological agreement, unity of thought and belief, and 
this on such a comprehensive scale that it robbed political questions of 
everything but their immediate and practical content. Besides, given 
such unity, there could be a return to that regional and personal 
independence and weak central government that Spaniards love. At 
the bottom of Carlism, as Unamuno observed, there is a great deal of 
anarchism, and anarchism is only possible, as we have pointed out 
before, when there is agreement as to certain essentials. Under the 
Hapsburg kings that agreement (secured by the severest restrictions 
on the liberty of thought) had permitted an anarchic freedom of action. 
It was therefore essential, so the Carlists declared, to restore that 
special tribunal, the Inquisition, which had made all this possible. 1 

The Inquisition had long ceased to inspire terror (its last victim had 
been an old woman burned in 1781 'for having carnal converse with 
the Devil and laying eggs that had prophecies written on them'), but 
down to its first dissolution by Napoleon it had continued to exercise 
great political power. It could ruin and disgrace anyone whom it 
chose to attack and in 1780 it had with difficulty been prevented from 
prosecuting all the King's ministers. It was the only instrument that 
could be trusted to root out the freemasons and so keep back the 
Liberal tide. It was natural therefore that it should provide a rallying 
cry for the Carlists, and even when, in the first years of the twentieth 
century, it had become entirely a thing of the past, one finds its 
restoration still at the head of the Carlist programme, whilst in their 
periodicals it is acclaimed in rapturous language as 'that most august 
tribunal, brought down by angels from heaven to earth'. 2 

- 1 See Note A on p. 213 at end of chapter. 

2 Jaime de Lobrera, El Carlismo es una Esperanza no un Terror, 1883. 



206 THE CARLISTS 

But the religious and dynastic questions were not the only ones that 
divided Liberals and Carlists. The centralizing policy of the last 
Bourbon kings and their whittling down of local rights and privileges 
had been greatly resented. The Liberals also stood for this policy and 
were planning to carry it much further. The Basques and Aragonese 
naturally felt their fueros threatened. Then the land policy of the 
Liberals (also a legacy of the eighteenth-century kings) was un 
popular. The Cadiz Cortes had proposed selling up the common 
lands, and the Cortes of 1822 would have carried this out if it had had 
more time. This drew the Church and the peasants together, for 
though little had as yet been said about selling Church property 
(which amounted to nearly one-third of the non-communal land in 
Spain), it was clear that before long its turn would come. If it was 
only in the north of Spain the Basque provinces, Navarre, Aragon 
and Catalonia that the peasants rose as a body to support Don 
Carlos, that was because it was only in those districts that the peasants 
and small farmers were sufficiently independent and conscious of the 
threat to their interests to react strongly. Small agricultural holdings 
were here balanced with communal pasture lands, and there was a 
large class of peasants who were relatively prosperous. Thus the 
religious question was linked to the land in 1833, just as it was in 1933, 
though in a different sense, for in 1933 the Church was not supporting 
the interests of the peasants but those of the landlords. Had the 
Church ever understood that its fate depended upon there being 
everywhere in Spain a prosperous peasantry, it is certain that its 
position would not be what it is to-day. But it never grasped this. 
And one must admit that it would have been difficult for it to have 
taken up this position without quarrelling with the wealthy middle 
and upper classes, whom the decline of the mendicant orders and the 
influence of the Jesuits had made the chief support of the Church. 

The enemies of the Carlists were, as we have said, the Liberals. 
And just as the Carlists had an international society, the Jesuits, which 
directed their policy and furthered their aims, so the Liberals had the 
freemasons. A few words must be said about them. Freemasonry was 
brought to Spain by the English. The Duke of Wharton founded the 
first lodge in Madrid in 1728 and, though forbidden by the Inquisi 
tion, it made progress among the enlightened aristocracy and the 
ministers of Charles III. In 1780 the more exotic rites of the Grand 
Orient (founded seven years before by the Due de Chartres) were 
substituted for the Scottish rites and in 1789 the Conde de Aranda, the 



THE CARLISTS 2OJ 

Prime Minister who had been the friend of Voltaire, became Grand 
Master. Many members of the King's circle joined it. For the lodges 
stood for the humanitarian ideas which were the fashionable doctrine 
of the age and which inspired the attitude of the Government and of 
the small ruling class. They thus acquired a great deal of power for 
twenty years the Madrid lodge was a sort of council of state and the 
road to influence lay through them. 

The Napoleonic War broke up the lodges, some going over to 
Joseph, who became Grand Master, and others siding with the 
National cause. But the membership was greatly extended by the 
inclusion of many of the corps of officers, and when the famous Con 
stituent Cortes met in 1810 at Cadiz a new patriotic branch, the 
Grand Orient of Spain, 1 was founded which at once proceeded to 
give birth to the Liberal party. 2 From now onwards freemasonry was 
the International of the revolutionary middle classes in their struggle 
against feudal and religious institutions. 

The Army, which was the champion of these middle classes, was 
naturally its special stronghold. Most of the plots and pronuncia- 
mientos of the next sixty years were hatched in the military lodges. 
The first of these, Riego's rising in 1820 that restored the Constitu 
tional regime, was pre-eminently their work. Then, in those ' three 
so-called years' that followed (to use the Carlist expression for them), 
the lodges expanded till they permeated the whole of middle-class 
life. They became one of those typical Spanish institutions such as the 
Inquisition, the Army, the civil service, that because they have jobs to 
offer swell almost overnight to huge proportions. For since they 
controlled the Government, they had in their gift all the bureaucratic 
and military posts in the country. No doubt for this reason they 
represented a moderate Liberalism, and the radicals and exaltados, 
who wanted jobs too, were driven to form rival societies. 

After the restoration of the Absolutist regime by the French the 

1 Throughout the Peninsular War the French and English competed in installing 
lodges in Spain, especially in the Army and Navy. These military lodges were called 
trincheras or trenches. It may seem strange therefore that, in the Cortes which sat at 
Cadiz at a time when the whole of Spain was overrun with French troops, it was a 
French type of lodge which won. But it was precisely the success of the French 
arms which led to this result and the Liberals of the Grande Oriente were quite 
prepared, if necessity arose, to come to terms with Joseph. As recent events have 
shown, the patriotism of Spaniards needs certain qualifications: three-quarters of 
the resistance to the French was due to the hatred of the Church for Jacobinism. 

2 The Liberal party was the gift of Spain to the world. The Conservatives were 
known as the serviles servil meaning not only * servile * but also, when written in 
two words, * vile being *. 



208 THE CARLISTS 

masons were hunted down and killed, but on Ferdinand's death they 
reappeared and again took charge of the Government. This time they 
were more successful and by their influence in the Army enabled the 
weak middle classes and the somewhat thin and heady Liberalism they 
stood for (Liberal ideas without their appropriate economic back 
ground) to defeat the Carlists. After this the importance of the lodges 
declined, mainly because the victory was won and in the less op 
pressive days ahead their organizations no longer served any useful 
purpose. After 1874 they ceased to be anything more than a club for 
the anti-clerical section of the Conservative middle classes. When the 
Republic came in most of the senior Army officers and even, it is said, 
the King were masons. 1 

The Carlist War that lasted from 1833 to 1840 completed the ruin 
that the Napoleonic Wars had begun and put all power into the hands 
of the Army for thirty years. The stronghold of the Carlists was in the 
north the Basque provinces, Navarre, Aragon, parts of Catalonia and 
Old Castile where, as we have seen, a fair distribution of land and a 
regular rainfall had produced a prosperous yeoman class who were 
ready to defend their liberties. It was essentially a movement of the 
country districts, for the large towns such as Bilbao, Saragossa and 
Pamplona were Liberal. Had agrarian conditions in other parts of 
Spain been less wretched Carlism would have appeared simply as an 
opposition of the country districts to the cities, such as one has 
recently seen in Austria. But in the rest of Spain the priests and 
monks could not get the people to rise or throw off their indifference, 
whilst the landlords were won over to the Liberal cause through their 
purchase at very low prices of the Church lands. 

The war settled down almost at once into a monotonous and ruth 
less struggle between two parties who could not come to effective 
grips with one another. The Basques and Navarrese fought with their 
usual courage and energy in their own country and produced leaders 
of genius such as Zumalacarregui and Cabrera. But their only form of 
warfare was guerrilla war and they failed as soon as they left their 
native mountains. The Liberal armies, on the other hand, composed 
of half-hearted, half-starved conscripts, led by the same incompetent 
generals of whom Wellington had so many bitter things to say, could 
make no progress against them on Carlist territory. They were am 
bushed, cut up and defeated whenever they advanced on to it, whilst 
in Madrid and through all the south of Spain a Liberal revolution 

1 See Note B on p. 214 at end of chapter. 



THE CARLISTS 2OQ 

simmered, because the Queen Regent would not, until forcibly obliged 
to, grant a full constitution. Carlism in the north, chaos and aimless 
revolution in the south and east: it was the same situation that re 
appeared during the First Republic in 1 872 and again in the autumn of 
1936, after Franco's rising had broken out. But in the Carlist War the 
foreign intervention (of more moral than material use) was on the side 
of the legitimate government. 

The war was fought with great ruthlessness, prisoners and hostages 
being frequently killed on both sides, whilst by a solemn order of Don 
Carlos (especially disgraceful when one remembers that the British 
Navy had not long before saved his life) every English prisoner caught 
by his troops was shot. The end came only when the Basques and 
Navarrese got tired of fighting and made peace without consulting 
their master. By the Convention of Vergara they were guaranteed 
their fueros and their officers were taken over by the Regular Army at 
the same pay and rank. 1 

Carlism being now defeated, revolutionary Liberalism had accom 
plished its mission. It had secured power for the upper-middle 
classes. All that remained was to consolidate this position and to 
prevent the petite bourgeoisie from obtaining the share that, on the 
strength of the assistance they had given in bringing down the Carlists, 
they now claimed. To do this it was necessary to reconcile the 
nouveaux riches , who had bought the Church lands sold in the heat of 
the war, to the bishops and the clergy. The man who brought about this 
reconciliation was General Narvaez. Three years after the conclusion 

1 A British Legion 10,000 strong, recruited with the assistance of the Govern 
ment and led by British Army officers, was fighting on the Cristino side. But there 
were also British volunteers fighting for 'the faction'. English admirers raised 
subscriptions for arms, and visits from Tory M.P/s to Don Carlos' camp took place 
very much as they have done during the recent war. 'The Carlists ', wrote a certain 
Mr Wilkinson, who was fighting on their side, * are very anxious to get stray English 
men who enter their provinces to write something about the cause. . . . They lead 
him about and if the season be spring or summer will bid him observe how green the 
fields and trees are and how the peasants are busied in their occupations. All this 
while the individual has no opportunity of ascertaining by general enquiries the real 
state of things : he is feasted and wheedled by the people of the court, writes as they 
wish, and leaves the country with the idea that he is competent to pass a judgement 
upon it.' 

But Don Carlos soon made the position of his English admirers very difficult: by 
the famous Durango Decree he condemned all foreign soldiers who were captured 
to be immediately shot and to the end of the war he carried this out to the letter. 
Several hundred Englishmen were massacred in cold blood and Tory support fell 
off. Only one M.P. was found to declare that 'this was their fault for going there*. 
And one should add that these Tories who supported the party of the Inquisition 
abroad were the same who by every means in their power had opposed Catholic 
Emancipation at home. 



210 THE CARLISTS 



of the Carlist War he drove out Espartero, the victor in that war and 
the champion of the petite bourgeoisie, who under cover of the title of 
Regent had made himself dictator, and set up a military dictatorship 
of the Right instead. The Jesuits came back to Spain, a concordat was 
signed with the Vatican, the common lands were sold. Except for 
brief revolutionary intervals the upper-middle classes, who then ac 
quired power, have ruled Spain sometimes through generals and 
court camarillas and sometimes through political parties ever since. 

Carlism was dead as a serious political party after 1840, yet the idea 
lived on. During the dark years when Spain was ruled by * freemasons 
and heretics, Jews and Liberals', which saw the introduction of such 
works of Satan as railways and gas light, it remained a hope for many 
thousands of Spaniards. Its position was very much that of the Stuart 
parties in England and Scotland after 1715. It lingered as a senti 
mental and romantic tradition in the north of Spain and among 
certain families. It appealed to the chivalrous and quixotic feelings to 
which Spaniards are so prone as well as to that ordenandsmo or love of 
laying down the law to which, so long as it is not to be applied to 
themselves, they are equally susceptible. And it had many adherents 
among women. But, though occasional small risings broke out from 
time to time, the Second Carlist War (1870-1876) could never have 
taken place had it not been for the deposition of Isabella and her 
substitution by King Amadeo of the * atheistical and masonic* House 
of Savoy, followed two years later by the Republic. 

The second Don Carlos (grandson of the first) had all the qualities 
required for a Bonny Prince Charlie; he was young, handsome and 
charming so charming that it was almost forgotten that he spoke 
Spanish with an Italian accent. The highlanders of Navarre and Alava 
rose with enthusiasm to fight for him. So once more the old heroic 
scenes of 1834 were repeated. Monks and priests led out guerrilla 
bands, nuns left off their prayers to make cartridges, whilst the young 
men of the farms and hamlets, eager to destroy atheists and Liberals, 
marched and drilled on the hillsides. But unfortunately Don Carlos 
was just as weak and incompetent as his grandfather had been. Before 
the war was a year old he had lost all authority over his bands, who 
roamed the borders of Castile and Valencia or made sudden descents 
on to the lowlands, robbing and murdering as they pleased. The 
Carlist tradition of violence reasserted itself and prisoners were shot 
with monotonous regularity, although this time the conduct of the 
Government troops gave little excuse for it. 



THE CARLISTS 211 

' Carlism a Hope and not a Terror 3 is the title of a tract of this time. 
But outside the Basque-speaking country it was the terror which 
made the deepest impression. The whole eastern theatre of the war, 
from Huesca almost to Alicante and from Cuenca to Terue! and 
Tortosa, along that arid mountainous watershed known as the Maes- 
trazgo, which had also been the scene of the Cid's operations, was 
given up to the most frightful anarchy. There was a priest called Santa 
Cruz who levied blackmail, tarred and feathered women and plun 
dered friends and enemies alike. Another threw everyone he caught 
alive into a chasm. Another, called Cucala, made the wives and 
daughters of Liberals march at the head of his column when attacking. 
In some places the churches of Liberal priests were burnt, whilst 
theological students destroyed trains and railway stations as * accursed 
novelties'. To the mild and cultured seventies and eighties, accus 
tomed to revolutionary movements from the Left and to the need for 
restraining them, but shocked by a deliberate attempt to set back the 
clock, Carlism seemed an extraordinary demonstration of antique 
fanaticism, more fitted to Thibet or Turkey than to a modern Euro 
pean country. 1 

The Republicans had great difficulty in containing the rising, which 
gathered strength as soon as they came in. Estella was taken by the 
Carlists and became the seat of their court. There were no troops to 
oppose to them, for most of the regiments had disbanded and the 
south and east were in the throes of the Cantonalist insurrection. But 
Don Carlos failed to advance on Madrid and the Republicans collected 
an army and drove him out of Castile. A year later the accession of 
Alfonso XII with the blessing of the Pope put an end to the war, which 
had never been popular among the countrymen: its chief supporters 
having always been the women and the priests. As a result of it the 
Basques lost their fueros. 

Carlism now seemed doomed to final extinction. The Carlists of 
Catalonia and of the Basque provinces enrolled themselves in the 
regionalist parties of their respective provinces, which grew up largely 
out of its ruins. The former joined the Catalan Lliga, the latter the 
Basque Nationalist party. Local autonomy had always been the main 
incentive in the Carlist rank and file. 2 But in Navarre (where the 

1 See Note C on p. 214 at end of chapter. 

2 The claim of the Carlist pretenders to stand for local autonomy was hardly 
logical when one remembers that the policy of all the eighteenth-century Bourbon 
kings had been greater centralization. But the French royalist party, in their search 
for popular support, had been carried along just the same road. In his manifesto of 



212 THE CARLISTS 

agrarian conditions and the lack of large industries suited it and where 
there was a traditional opposition to the other Basque provinces) it 
maintained itself as strongly as ever, and all over Northern Spain it 
could count adherents in every town and village. Refusing the too 
secular name of party, it took to calling itself the Carlist Communion 
and kept up a fervid stream of enthusiasm in local newspapers and 
journals. Its programme remained the same. The year 1900 finds the 
Carlists still demanding a high property qualification at elections, the 
abolition of religious toleration for foreigners and above all the re- 
establishment of the Inquisition. Then, as its prospects of success 
dwindled (the worst humiliation came when the new Carlist pretender, 
Don Jaime, announced himself a Liberal), a period of apocalypse 
began. Ever since 1870 Don Carlos had been spoken of as the Messiah 
who would come to judge the enemies of the Church and establish a 
reign of truth and equity. Now a certain Father Ceferino began to 
prophesy that the Carlists would rule Spain 'after the anarchy* which 
he announced was close at hand. And so in 1909, during the distur 
bances in Barcelona, we hear of Carlists drilling and of convents 
amassing arms and of requetes firing from the upper windows of the 
Rambla into the street. Not all the bombs that went off during the 
following years were laid by Anarchists. 1 

But all the same a change was taking place. Leo XIIFs pontificate 
had led to a new attitude towards social and political questions in 
Catholic countries. This necessarily affected the Carlist ideology also. 
Early in the nineties a reformer appeared among them, a certain Juan 
Vazquez de Mella, who drew up a programme which he declared, in a 
phrase that bordered on blasphemy, 'was more suited to modern 
times'. His views gained ground with all but a few die-hards and the 
Carlist Communion became the Traditionalist party. 

Absolutism, he declared, was dead. What was needed was a king 
who ruled and governed, with the assistance of a council chosen by 
himself. Instead of an elected parliament, there was to be a corpora 
tive assembly, composed of deputations representing the classes, 

6 July 1871 the Comte de Charnbord promised the French people to give them 'sur 
les larges assises de la decentralisation administrative et des franchises locales, un 
gouvemement conforme aux besoins re*els du pays '. 

After 1900 and the rise of Catalan and Basque Nationalism the Carlist support for 
local autonomy declined and has to-day ceased to exist altogether. 

* The Carlists used bombs in Spain before the Anarchists. ' My civil conscience ', 
said Unamuno in a speech at Hendaye in 1930, * dates from the day in which twenty 
bombs were laid in Bilbao, my native city, by the absolutists of Don Carlos de 
Bourbon. Fifty years have passed since then.* 



THE CARLISTS 213 

interests and regions, which debated in secret. Without their consent 
the king could not impose new taxation nor alter any fundamental 
law. The authorities would of course see to it that only right-thinking 
persons were nominated. 

In the country districts the aristocracy were to be restored to their 
'ancient functions and privileges'. The middle classes would be al 
lowed to control the municipalities. Schools and universities would 
be under the Church, new and severe laws against blasphemy would 
be passed and liberty of worship would be rescinded. There would of 
course be a censorship of books and of the press. The leading prin 
ciples of the regime would be absolute submission to the Pope and 
absolute devotion to the King. 

That is the creed for which the requetes fought so heroically in the 
Civil War. Its resemblance to Mussolini's Corporative State will be 
noted. As Unamuno said, the Carlists both in their general ideas and 
by their methods of violence and intolerance anticipated Fascism. 
But there is also a profound difference. Carlism looks solely to the 
past : all the industrial and intellectual developments of the last century 
are antipathetic to it. To its adherents it promises neither glory nor 
prosperity, but 'order' and 'respect for the hierarchies'. Spanish 
Fascism, on the other hand, is an exuberant creed drunk on fantastic 
dreams of empire and glory in the future. That they can be reconciled 
for long is not probable. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER IX 

A (p. 205). The Carlists aimed at restoring what Men^ndez y Pelayo called the 
democratia frailuna, monkist democracy, of the seventeenth century. They were 
careful to distinguish, as Juan de Mariana had done, between absolutism and 
despotism. In the former system the powers of the King were limited by natural 
law and by religion. If the King ordered anything contrary to the * eternal and 
immutable principles of justice', the people should reply in the well-known phrase 
Se obedece, pero no se cumple ' We obey, but we are not going to do anything about 
it*. Again if the humblest of the King's subjects was injured by the King, he could 
sue him at the courts and recover damages from him. For Sobre el Rey estd la ley. 

The Carlists also drew attention to the fact that governments which derive their 
powers from tradition can afford to be laxer and milder than new governments, 
which are forced to commit many tyrannical acts to maintain themselves. Certainly 
Spanish history has provided plenty of examples of the truth of this argument. What 
the Carlists forgot was that since methods of production in the world change, any 
system of government which cannot adapt itself to new circumstances becomes 
intolerable. No doubt it was true that Liberalism was, as they asserted, merely old 
Protestantism writ new. The greater scope it allowed to individual effort, the 
neutrality or passiveness of the State both had their origins in Lutheran anti- 
authoritarianism. Yet it was not any abstract theory of liberty, but the invention of 
the spinning jenny and the steam engine, that were making the new political forms 
inevitable. 



214 THE CARLISTS 

B (p. 208). In the period between 1808 and 1840 the influence of British lodges in 
Spain was very strong. The Scottish lodges at Gibraltar (which contained many 
officers of the garrison) supported all the plots against Ferdinand. After 1840 the 
French influence ousted the British and to-day there is no connection between 
British and Spanish freemasonry. This breach (according to Gould) dates from 1877 
when the Grand Lodge of England separated itself from the Grand Lodge of France 
because the latter had removed from its Book of Constitutions the paragraph 
affirming the existence of a Great Architect of the Universe. In 1936 there were two 
Grand Orients in Spain, one of which retained this paragraph, whilst the other did 
not. The masons of La Linea, who were direct descendants of the Scottish lodges, 
seem to have kept to the old tradition. This did not, however, prevent them from 
being, to the number of about 200, murdered in particularly sordid circumstances by 
the Carlist reqwtis, under the eyes and one might almost say with the tacit approval 
of the English garrison and colony at Gibraltar. 

C (p. 211). Don Carlos began the campaign with a proclamation to the effect that 
'every Spaniard who did not obey the order to rise, however powerful his reasons 
might be, was condemned to be shot.' Although this was meant only as a piece of 
bravado, it was frequently acted upon. The histories and newspapers of the time 
give ample proof of it. 

One may ask why the Carlists were always so violent. The answer is that, like Don 
Quixote, they were an anachronism in a modern world that had ceased to care for 
the things they lived by. They believed that they were engaged in a holy war against 
Liberals, freemasons and atheists: all around them were the hosts of Satan, the men 
of the century, the madmen who believed that the rule of life must change because 
time moved. They alone were faithful. They alone were entrusted with the judge 
ments of God. 

But there was also an economic reason for their violence. The Carlists suffered 
under a disadvantage which did not affect the Government forces. They had no 
regular means of raising money and thus, not only were their troops compelled to 
live on the country, but the principal object of most of their military operations had 
to be to squeeze money from the towns and villages hostile to them. This led to a 
deterioration in the character of the war. The guerrilla leaders tended more and more 
to become brigands and to adopt those methods of threat and torture to which people 
who raise money by force are necessarily driven. And this in turn led to a demorali 
zation in the Carfist ranks. Whilst some of these men were fanatics who robbed for 
the cause only, others were simply adventurers who had entered the Carlist ranks for 
what they could get out of it. 

The parallel to Anarchism is obvious. The Carlist terror in Aragon and Valencia 
was not unlike the Anarchist terror in 1936 through the same district. Durrati was 
the implacable Cabrera over again. The principle of action violence to obtain 
* liberty" was identical. The main difference was that whereas the Anarchists were 
endeavouring to create a new world, the Carlists wished to force Spain back into the 
narrow framework of the past. In 1833 Carlism still had some raison d'etre: it 
represented a perfectly normal conservatism and an opposition of country to town. 
But in 1873, in so far as it was not a rural movement confined to the farms and 
villages of Navarre, or a purely sentimental attitude on the part of a few families, it 
was simply the revolutionary action of the militant wing of the Spanish Church. 



Chapter X 

THE SOCIALISTS 

In Chapters vn and vui I have gone at some length into the character 
and history of the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement. It will not be 
necessary to say so much about Spanish Socialism. Unlike Anarcho- 
Syndicalism it is a branch of a European family whose leading charac 
teristics are well known everywhere, whilst the course it has followed 
south of the Pyrenees has been a perfectly normal one. 

We have already seen how a small group of Autoritarios or Marxian 
Socialists, under the leadership of an old trade unionist and ty 
pographer called Jose Mesa, were expelled from the Bakuninist 
International in 1872. This group did not survive the collapse of the 
Republic and the proscription of the working-class organizations that 
followed, but its members continued to exchange views and to cor 
respond with one another. A tertulia or circle of friends met every 
night in a Madrid cafe to discuss Socialist theories, and these dis 
cussions ended in a resolution to found a party. Thus it came about 
that on 2 May 1879 ^ ve friends met in a tavern in the Calle de Tetuan 
for a ' banquet of international fraternity' and founded in secret, of 
course the Partido Democratico Socialists Obrero. 

This young Socialist party consisted for the most part of members 
of the Madrid union of printers and typographers with a few doctors 
thrown in. The leading figure was a typographer called Pablo Iglesias, 
who nine years before, as a youth of twenty, had joined the Inter 
national. The son of a poor widow who earned her living by washing 
clothes in the Manzanares and suffering all his life from bad health 
due to early malnutrition, he had developed a tenacity and will power 
which made his companions ready to accept him as a leader in 
preference to older and perhaps more talented men. Thus in 1872 he 
was editing the authoritarian paper La Emandpacion in collaboration 
with Jose Mesa and Paul Lafargue and a few years later he was 
elected President of the (non-political) Printers' Association in Madrid. 
But the chief influence in the formation of the party came from 
abroad. Jose Mesa had been settled for some years as a journalist 
in Paris and corresponded regularly with Iglesias. Through Paul 
Lafargue he had come to know Jules Guesde and had joined his 



2l6 THE SOCIALISTS 

circle. Now Guesde was not only an intimate friend of Lafargue's 
but the chief representative at this time of orthodox Marxist doctrine 
against the opportunist influences that were creeping into it. He 
edited the famous weekly L'galite. 1 Mesa naturally saw that copies 
of this paper reached his Socialist friends in Madrid, whilst his letters 
of advice and explanation, which, in view of his age, experience and 
former position as leader of the authoritarian group, carried great 
weight, presented the same point of view. Iglesias was impressed by 
Guesde's severe, categoric style and uncompromising attitude and 
adopted them for the use of the Spanish Socialist party. 

In 1881 Sagasta's 'fusionist* party came into office and restored to 
the working classes their old right of association. The Socialists could 
therefore appear openly. The party was refounded with 900 members 
of the printers' and typographers' union and a hundred members 
from other professions, and Iglesias was elected secretary. His first 
act was to organize a strike. Some of the printing establishments had 
refused to carry out their legal obligations towards their employees. 
They therefore struck work. It was a very small strike only 300 
typographers were involved but it was the first one the country had 
seen since the restoration of the Monarchy, and it created a great 
sensation. Several newspapers had to cease publication and the whole 
press, Liberal as well as Conservative, resounded with denunciations 
of the Socialists. The Government intervened in favour of the pro 
prietors and imprisoned the strike committee. But the men won, and 
although Iglesias was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for the 
part he had played in it, the fact that it had been won against the 
Government and the municipal authorities gave the Socialist party a 
certain prestige. One result of this strike was that many newspapers 
and printing establishments in Madrid refused to employ Socialists. 

1 Jules Guesde (1845-1922) was a Bakuninist until 1873 or thereabouts, when he 
went over to Mane. As soon as the reaction that followed the Commune came to an 
end he became the chief propagandist of Marxist ideas in France. At first these 
were a little vague. The general lines to be followed were not settled till 1880 when 
Marx, Engels, Lafargue and Guesde drew up a programme which was accepted by a 
labour congress at Le Havre in the same year. In this programme it was laid down 
that although a political party of the proletariat must be founded, a complete rupture 
with the bourgeoisie was necessary. The next congress two years later led to a split 
between Guesde and the reformist and anti-Marxist wing of Brousse (Les Possi- 
bilistes). Guesde then founded his own party, the Parti Ouvrier, which decided to 
participate in elections, but only as a means of agitation and propaganda. It was in 
this spirit that Guesde (assisted by Lafargue) edited L'figalite. His influence upon 
Iglesias was so great that one can trace it not only in the programme and policy of the 
Spanish Socialist party, but in the dry and uncompromising style of their paper El 
Socialista, 



THE SOCIALISTS 217 

An exodus of typographers followed and Socialist doctrines were 
carried to the provinces. 

The movement, however, progressed very slowly. It was not till 
1886 that it had a paper of its own : then El Socialista was founded as a 
weekly on the very insufficent capital of 927 pesetas, which it had 
taken three and a half years to collect. The foundation of the paper led 
to a small split in the party. One of the articles of its programme, as 
drawn up by Iglesias, expressed its intention of * attacking all bour 
geois parties and especially the most advanced'. In this decision 
Guesde's influence showed itself: the advanced parties were the most 
dangerous because they alone could attract working-class votes. But 
several of the most outstanding men in the party, among them Jaime 
Vera, the scientist, dissented and left. This did not deter Iglesias, who 
during the next twenty-five years never abandoned an attitude of 
what he called 'blessed intransigeance'. 

The next step was to organize a trade union for the whole of Spain. 
The Anarchist Regional Federation, founded in 1881, was at that time 
breaking up and leaving all over the country small unions that often 
had not any very definite political orientation. By capturing and 
bringing together a number of these and adding them to the now 
reduced typographers' union, Francisco Mora and Garcia Quejido 
succeeded in founding in 1888 the Union General de Trabajadores 
or, as it is usually called, the U.G.T. This was a trade union of the 
ordinary social democratic type, moderate and disciplined and without 
any immediate revolutionary objects. Its strikes were peaceful and 
directed solely towards improving the workers' conditions. 1 But its 
numbers were insignificant: founded with a membership of 3300, 
eleven years had passed before it could double this. The comparison 
with the teeming forces of the Anarchists was discouraging. It almost 
seemed as though the Spanish working classes would never be won 
over to Socialism. One reason for this failure to attract adherents is 
obvious. The main principle that separated the Socialist party from 
the Anarchists was their belief in parliamentary and municipal action. 
Yet the fact that the elections were a sham and that their results were 
decided beforehand by the Government in power showed that they 

1 The U.G.T. was founded in Barcelona in the hope that it would absorb the 
industrial workers there, but its failure in Catalonia was so complete that in 1899 the 
central office was moved to Madrid. This was not, however, due to the competition 
of the Anarchists. The oldest trade union in Catalonia, the Tres Closes de Vapor, 
was in 1882 attempting to found a political party with 'possibilist' tendencies and 
other independent unions showed signs of joining it. It was the CastiKan, authori 
tarian spirit of the Socialist party that made it uncongenial to the Catalan workers. 



2l8 THE SOCIALISTS 

had no chance whatever of gaining a seat either in the Cortes or in the 
municipalities. To expect Spanish workmen to go in large numbers to 
the polls knowing beforehand that the results would be falsified was 
out of the question. Iglesias was therefore obliged to fall back upon a 
plan of moral preparation of such of the working classes as he was able 
to draw over to his party. This gave the Socialist movement a pecu 
liarly severe and puritanical character. The Republicans, with whom 
they carried on a constant war, spoke of it as a cosa de losfrailes. But 
perhaps monkish was not quite the word. This closed and narrow 
congregation, set on maintaining the purity of its doctrines, with its 
strict discipline, its austere enthusiasm and its unshakeable faith in its 
own superior destiny, could better be described as Calvinist. There 
was something almost Genevan in the standard of self-respect, per 
sonal morality and obedience to conscience that it demanded of its 
followers. 1 

The wisdom of this policy was to show itself when, in 1899, under 
the shock administered to the regime by the American War, the tide 
began to turn. Within a couple of years the membership of the U.G.T. 
rose from 6000 to 26,000. Up to this time the only places where the 
Socialist movement had shown any signs of life had been Bilbao and 
Madrid. In Madrid were grouped more than half the trade-union 
members and a still larger proportion of the party, but the pos 
sibilities of expansion were limited because, till the introduction of 
electric power some years later, it contained few industries and only a 
scanty working-class population. In Bilbao the case was different. 
Here a nucleus had existed almost from the beginning among the 

1 The Socialist party set itself to raise the self-respect of the working classes. They 
made it clear that members of their union had to be serious men : they could not get 
drunk, take bribes or go to brothels. Even bull fights were frowned on. Pfo Baroja, 
who was no friend of theirs, said that one of the best things that Socialists had done 
in Madrid was that they had put an end to the ckulaperia of the poor. Madrid, as the 
seat of the court and the Government, had at this time a very loose standard of 
conduct and the working classes were infected with the vices of the bourgeoisie just 
as they are in Seville to-day. This moral regeneration was of course essential if the 
Socialists were to hold their own in these corrupt times. Equally essential was the 
voluntary seclusion which the party had adopted, which exposed them to- the re 
proach of being more afraid of being absorbed by other parties than anxious to gain 
new adherents. The 'policy of attraction* (in other words, bribery) practised by the 
Government parties, which had robbed the Republicans of so many of their best 
men, had to be guarded against. As an example of this, one may take Sagasta's 
offer to give Iglesias a seat at Valmaseda if he would refrain from contesting Bilbao at 
the approaching elections. Iglesias had a following at Bilbao, but none at Val 
maseda, Had ^he taken Sagasta's advice, the Socialist party would have had a 
representative in the Cortes many years before it actually did so, but at the cost of 
becoming a tool of the Government. 



THE SOCIALISTS 219 

workmen in the iron foundries and had gained prestige for itself in a 
series of successful strikes. Although it had to fight to gain recruits in 
such strongly Catholic surroundings, its position in the largest in 
dustrial city in the country after Barcelona was decisive and Bilbao 
became the chief centre of diffusion for Socialism in the rest of Spain. 
From it the movement spread to the steel workers of Asturias and to 
the miners of Linares in the province of Jaen. All over Spain builders, 
typographers, iron workers and miners were leaning to the U.G.T. 
rather than to the Anarchists. But still progress was slow. Every new 
group had to struggle against the bitter hostility of the employers, the 
municipalities and the caciques, whose actions were never hindered 
by any scruples as to their legality. Elections still continued to be 
conducted in the old way so that, though the party had gained two 
seats in the Madrid Municipality, 1 it had as yet no representative in 
the Cortes, Besides, the low wages of the great majority of Spanish 
workers made co-operation in a normal trade union, with its relatively 
high subscription, difficult. 

This was the time of the introduction of the Casas del Pueblo or 
Workers' Houses. They were an institution of the Belgian Socialists 
which Lerroux had brought to Barcelona in 1905 for his Radical 
party and which were then taken up by Iglesias. Every Casa del 
Pueblo contained the committee rooms of the local branch of the 
party, a free lending library at which not only Socialist literature but 
also books of general interest were provided, and usually a cafe as 
well. In the towns there was also an assembly room where meetings 
could be held. When one reflects that only four or five cities in the 
whole of Spain possessed a public library, the educational value of 
these workers' clubs can be appreciated. They were available to every 
member of the U.G.T. In Madrid the Casa del Pueblo was a ducal 
palace bought expressly for the purpose, for the Socialist party had a 
strong sense of its own dignity and felt itself the heir to the glories of 
the past. This extension of its activities led to a certain rivalry with the 
Anarchists, especially in the south, where the Socialists were regarded 
as trespassers, and with the Radicals, who in Barcelona had Casas del 
Pueblo of their own. However, these innovations were not allowed to 
affect the general trend of the party. Under Iglesias' leadership it 

1 In 1905 Pablo Iglesias and Largo Caballero secured their election to the Madrid 
Municipal Council by faking the secret identification marks on the ballot papers of 
the Conservative parties, which led them till the actual counting of votes took place 
to believe that they had won. After 1910 public opinion turned and it became in 
creasingly difficult to falsify the results of elections in the large towns. 



220 THE SOCIALISTS 

continued on its austere and moderate course, disdaining both the 
general strikes and revolutionary fervour of the Anarchists and the 
purely verbal violence of the Radicals. 

But Maura's policy and the events of the Semana Trdgica brought 
it down from its pedestal. On 26 July 1909 the Socialist party in 
Barcelona, in alliance with the Radicals and the Anarchists, called a 
general strike. On 2 August the strike was extended by the U.G.T. to 
the rest of Spain and Iglesias published a violent manifesto. This 
unexpected act gave the Socialists a sudden popularity. It was fol 
lowed by an alliance with the Republicans and the Radicals with the 
immediate aim of putting an end to the war in Morocco and bringing 
the reactionary Maura Government down. The results of this new 
policy were immediate. At the elections held a few months later the 
Socialists obtained seats in forty municipalities and Iglesias was re 
turned to the Cortes for a Madrid constituency. 

The reason for this sudden change is not far to seek. The Socialist 
party believed that its road to power lay through parliamentary and 
municipal action. But it could make no progress along this road so 
long as the elections were corrupt and fraudulent. Like the Socialist 
and peasant parties in other backward, badly governed countries it 
stood therefore, before anything else, for honest elections, moderate 
reforms and a purification of the political and administrative life of the 
country. This was a point of view which was shared by Conservatives 
like Cambo and the Catalan industrialists who followed him, by 
Melquiades Alvarez's Reformist party, recruited in Asturias, by 
Lerroux's Radicals and by the small Republican party, as well as by 
most sane and progressive people throughout the country. Every 
where increasing disgust was felt at the corruption and inefficiency of 
political life and at the tyranny of the caciques, and public opinion 
was rising. When therefore the Socialists came to the front as the 
champions through all Spain of honest and decent government and 
did what no other political party could do declared a general strike 
they at once drew the attention of all those people who desired the 
same thing. And as the struggle at the polling booths became real and 
the caciques saw their power confined more and more to the country 
districts, the enthusiasm of the working classes rose, and, except in the 
Anarchist regions or where the caciques were too powerful, they 
flocked to vote. 

The years 1910-1917 saw therefore a marked increase of Socialist 
activity. The great mining and steel-producing centres of the north 



THE SOCIALISTS 221 

Bilbao and Asturias increased their membership and began to pro 
selytize the south. Gonzalez Pefia won over the Rio Tinto to the 
U.G.T., and the mining centres of the Sierra Morena Penarroya and 
Almaden followed suit. These movements were accompanied by a 
series of strikes at Bilbao, Linares and Rio Tinto, which were most of 
them successful. Only a railway strike led by the U.G.T. and sup 
ported by the newly founded C.N.T. failed completely. The fear of 
the bourgeoisie that it would be the prelude to a revolution led 
Canalejas to call up the strikers to the colours. The Socialists also 
began to turn their attention to the land. In the small towns of 
Andalusia and the Levante Casas del Pueblo sprang up and a suc 
cessful campaign was started in the irrigated vega of Granada. 1 The 
Anarchists lost everywhere except in Catalonia. For this was a period 
of faith in parliamentary action and of belief that it would lead, either 
by peaceful means or by revolution, to a new state of things. But the 
King and the reactionary forces which supported him had no intention 
of taking the risks which honest elections to a Constitutional Cortes 
would offer, and when in the so-called * Renovation Movement* of 
1917 all those forces making for a new Spain began to gather strength 
and to demand an immediate solution, the Socialist party was manoeu 
vred into declaring against Iglesias' advice a general strike, which 
was then broken with considerable bloodshed by the Army. 2 So the 
hope of regeneration by parliamentary action came to an end. It did 
not return till 193 1, when the conditions for its success were for many 
reasons less favourable. 

Every revolutionary movement, every strike that fails after courage 
ously defying authority, is a moral success in Spain and leads to an 
increase in the numbers of the defeated party. That is a measure of the 
difference of psychological climate between Spain and other European 
countries. The four Socialists Largo Caballero, Besteiro, Anguiano 
and Saborit who were condemned to penal servitude for their part 
in the strike were at once elected to the Cortes (two of them on 
Anarchist votes), at the same time as Iglesias and Prieto. 3 The 
Government had to release them. In the following year the U.G.T., 

1 See Note A on p. 228 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note B on p. 228 at end of chapter. 

3 One of the charges on which Besteiro, who was a member of the Junta which in 
March 1939 negotiated the surrender of Madrid to Franco, was sentenced to a long 
term of imprisonment by the Falangist authorities was his participation in the 1917 
strike I An offence for which he had twenty-one years before been pardoned by the 
King. He died in prison. 



222 THE SOCIALISTS 

which in 1900 had only 42,000 members, could claim 220,000. 
Spanish Socialism was becoming a serious political force. And new 
men appeared on the scenes to lead it. Pablo Iglesias, el abuelo or 
* grandfather', as he was affectionately called, though he lived on to 
1925 and retained the Presidency both of the Socialist party and of 
the U.G.T. until his death, was too ill during the last eight years of his 
life to play any effective part in the movement. Francisco Largo 
Caballero, a Madrid plasterer who had learned to read when he was 
twenty-four, took over his functions in the U.G.T. , whilst Julian 
Besteiro, a professor of logic, became Vice-President of the party. 
Fernando de los Rios, a professor of law, Luis Araquistain, a 
journalist, and Indalecio Prieto also began to corne to the front of the 
movement. Prieto requires a few words to himself. As a boy he had 
sold newspapers and trays of pins in the streets of Bilbao. His great 
natural intelligence had enabled him to rise and to attract the attention 
of a wealthy Liberal banker and business man, Horacio Echevarrieta, 
to whom he became a sort of confidential agent. Prieto advised him on 
his affairs and managed his newspaper, El Liberal de Bilbao, so well 
that in the end he became sole proprietor. When in 1919 he was 
elected to the Cortes his exceptional parliamentary gifts (he was the 
most eloquent speaker in the house) gave him a leading role in the 
Socialist party. His life-long rivalry with Caballero dates from this 
moment. Whilst Caballero represented the severe authoritarian spirit 
of Castile with its narrowness and intransigeance, Prieto stood for 
the more liberal and flexible trade unionism of Bilbao, a commercial 
city whose affinities He in the north of Europe rather than in 
Madrid. Thus it came about that on almost every important occasion 
during the next twenty years Prieto and Caballero differed. And 
since Caballero represented Madrid and the tradition of Guesde 
and Iglesias, and Prieto only Bilbao and that almost non-existent 
thing Spanish Liberal opinion it was natural that Caballero's views 
should prevail. 

A difficult problem soon confronted the party whether or not to 
adhere to the Third (Communist) International. Their reformist ten 
dencies had received a strong check in 1917 when the attempt to clear 
a legal parliamentary road had failed. King, Church and Army now 
blocked the way, and it was difficult to see how they could be removed 
without violence. Besides, the Russian Revolution had established 
itself and was acting as a powerful magnet on all working-class move 
ments. After two extraordinary congresses, held in the summer of 



THE SOCIALISTS 223 

1920, had come to opposite decisions (the second voted by 8269 votes 
to 5016 in favour of entering) it was decided to send two emissaries, 
Fernando de los Rios and Daniel Anguiano, to Russia to make a 
reconnaissance. They arrived to find that the Congress of the Third 
International had established twenty-one conditions which must be 
fulfilled by anybody wishing to join it. De los Rios, who was un 
favourably impressed by everything he saw in Russia, thought these 
conditions were unacceptable: Anguiano was for accepting them. On 
their return a third extraordinary congress was called to hear their 
reports. Before it met the Executive Commission of the party (which 
in the absence of a Congress is the supreme authority) met at Iglesias' 
house to discuss the matter. Iglesias, who was a democrat, made every 
effort to persuade them to accept de los Rios* report, but on putting 
the matter to the vote, the majority were seen to be against it. When 
the Congress assembled a few weeks later Iglesias was ill and unable to 
attend, but he sent a letter in which he made a last appeal against 
accepting the twenty-one conditions, on the grounds partly that this 
would cause a split in the party. This appeal was successful. The 
Assembly decided against affiliation with the Third International by 
8880 votes to 6025 and when the Second International was revived a 
few years later the party took Caballero's advice and joined it. The 
dissidents, who included such active members of the party as Garcia 
Quejido, Anguiano and Francisco Mora, founded the Spanish Com 
munist party. 1 

Another problem was soon provided by the Dictatorship. Primo de 
Rivera, who had a genuine admiration for the Socialists, felt the need 
for having some support among the working classes and offered them 
favourable terms if they would co-operate with him in his work of 
regeneration. Prieto, who had grown up in the Liberal climate of 
Bilbao and was a member of the Ateneo, was opposed to acceptance. 
Largo Caballero, a Madrid authoritarian, over-ruled him. So the 
Socialists took what was offered them by the Dictatorship and 

1 The Communist party was founded by the dissident Socialists and by a certain 
number of Anarcho-Syndicalists, of whom, the best known were Andres Nin and 
Joaqum Maurfn. Within a couple of years all the Socialists had left and, with the 
exception of Anguiano, who remained neutral, had rejoined the Socialist party. The 
Anarcho-Syndicalists were equally restive in their new allegiance and Nin and 
Maurin went to Russia to point out the need for different tactics. When they re 
turned at the end of the Dictatorship they founded the Left Communist (Trotskyist) 
party, which obtained a certain mass support in Catalonia. During the Dictatorship 
the Communist Party was so insignificant that Primo de Rivera did not think it 
worth while suppressing it and the Communist press continued to appear as usual. 



224 THE SOCIALISTS 

Caballero, as Secretary of the U.G.T., became a Councillor of State. 
The real reason for this unexpected action was the hope that by so 
doing they could strengthen their position in the country and in 
particular gain ground from the Anarcho-Syndicalists, whose organi 
zations had been proscribed by the Dictator. 

During the past few years the C.N.T. had been increasing its 
numbers very rapidly. With the aid of its sindicato tinico and the 
prestige of its great strikes it had not only swept away all the recent 
gains of its rival in the Andalusian campo, but it had invaded the 
Socialist preserve of the centre and north. Here it had seized half the 
builders' union in Madrid, which was one of the first strongholds of 
the U.G.T., had drawn off many of the railwaymen and planted itself 
firmly in Asturias, in the port of Gijon and in the great iron foundries 
of Sama and La Felguera. 

To Caballero, who had the whole organization of the U.G.T. in his 
hands, this was a serious matter: the fear of losing ground to the 
C.N.T. was almost an obsession with him. As a Marxist he felt the 
supreme importance of the unification of the proletariat. He sensed 
therefore in the Dictatorship a good opportunity for making some 
progress in this direction. Possibly the U.G.T. would be able to 
absorb the C.N.T. altogether. 

This hope was not fulfilled. By using the comites pantarios (arbitra 
tion boards in industrial disputes) of the Dictatorship as a starting 
point, the U.G.T. greatly increased their strength in the country 
districts, especially in Extremadura, Granada, Aragon and New 
Castile, but they failed completely in Catalonia and made no progress 
among the industrial proletariat. The Anarcho- Syndicalists preferred 
to enter the reactionary sindicato libre^ which they knew would break 
up with the fall of the Dictatorship. One other gain made by the 
Socialists was the incorporation in the U.G.T. of the shop assistants* 
and bank clerks* unions through a large part of Spain and the forma 
tion of a strong doctors* union. Henceforth a small though influential 
section of the professional classes and a large body of the lower-middle 
classes belonged to them. 

There only remains to be considered the general character of 
Spanish Socialism. Senor Madariaga, himself a Liberal, writing in 
1930, drew attention to its stern political outlook, its sense of authority, 
its instinct for government from above, for the weight and dignity of 
institutions. Essentially a product of the Castilian soil, it showed, he 
thought, an attitude of life that had been deeply influenced by the 



THE SOCIALISTS 225 

traditions of Catholic Spain. 1 He might have added that, as history 
shows, there has often been a definite trend in Spain towards Socialist 
institutions. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Spain was too 
isolated from the rest of the world to feel the Renaissance deeply. Her 
history was therefore a continuation, in an expanded form, of the 
Middle Ages. Her Church was the all-embracing Mediaeval Church. 
Her State moved towards Socialism rather than towards capitalism. 
To such a point did this go that in the middle of the seventeenth 
century we find what Costa has, with some exaggeration no doubt, 
described as a school of collectivist economics whose projects for 
nationalizing the land were seriously debated by the Royal Council 
and on one occasion actually adopted. 2 The progress of modern in 
dustrial civilization arrested this tendency, but failed to make the 
current flow in the opposite direction. For all the Liberal ferment of 
the early nineteenth century, economic Liberalism never took root in 
the country. Private enterprise remained stagnant. Spain became 
* backward'. Since no one can suppose that such an active and in 
telligent race as the Spaniards could not, if they wished, apply 
themselves to the tasks of money-making, the explanation can only 
be that, as a Venetian ambassador two centuries ago observed, they 
have never wished to. Indeed to anyone who has lived in Spain this is 
obvious. Every class has its own way of showing the repugnance it 
feels for modern capitalist civilization. The risings of the Anarchists 
and the Carlists are one form: the idleness of the rich, the lack of 
enterprise of the business men and the sluggishness of the bankers are 
another. So too are such phenomena as empleomania and the swollen 
ranks of Government clerks and Army officers. Whatever historical 
causes may be assigned to this refractoriness, it remains a fact that 
Spaniards live either for pleasure or for ideals, but never for personal 
success or for money-making. That is why every Spanish business 
man and shop assistant is a poet manque: every working man has his 
'idea': every peasant is a philosopher. 

It may be said that all this does not point to Socialism: yet by 
making the stress and strain of competitive life and of factory con- 

1 * The Socialism of Madrid is the only true historical entity in modern Spanish 
politics, i.e. the only feature endowed with an inner life which gives it a permanent, 
growing and formative value in the life of the country.* Madariaga, Spain, p. 207. 
How far Spanish Socialism and Catholicism are plants of the same soil is shown by 
the fact that in Old Castile, the heart of the former Spanish Empire, the only two 
parties are the Socialists and the Catholics. Neither Liberals nor Republicans nor 
Anarchists have ever had any influence there. 

2 See Appendix II. 



226 THE SOCIALISTS 

ditions intolerable, the capitalist system has produced a strong desire 
in every class for a change. What Socialism offers, what every 
Spaniard desires, is safety. The ethical side of Socialism too, the 
belief that to everyone should be given not according to his deserts, 
but according to his needs, is deeply rooted in the Iberian nature. 
This belief, which has never been current in the democracies, is part 
and parcel of the Spanish Catholic tradition. It is what most dis 
tinguishes Spanish from English and French Christianity. No race in 
Europe is so profoundly egalitarian or has so little respect for success 
or for property. If within the next two centuries there is a happy and 
peaceful future awaiting Spain, one may predict that it will be in a 
weak and paternal Socialist regime, giving ample regional and muni 
cipal autonomy: a regime not unlike the system under which Spain 
lived in the early seventeenth century. 

A few words must be said about the Socialist party of Catalonia. It 
will be remembered that, although the headquarters of the U.G.T. 
had been for ten years at Barcelona, it had never caught on there. The 
Spanish Socialist party and its union were too authoritarian, too 
Castilian to please the Catalans. A purely Catalan party, the Union 
Sodalista Catalan^ was therefore founded some years later by Juan 
Comorera. It was less centralized than the Socialist party and in 
clined towards the federal principles of Pi y Margall. It allied itself at 
elections with the Esquerra or Left Catalan party. It was always a 
very small party and would have little importance but for the re 
markable results which it helped to produce by its support of the 
Co-operative movement, which had been declining since 1873, ^ ut 
now began to revive in a remarkable way. The work of some of these 
productive co-operative societies of Catalonia is described in Ap 
pendix II. Through the energy of Comorera and his associates eight 
large co-operative shops, each with its cafe, billiard room, gymnasium, 
reading room, cinema and baths, were opened in the suburbs of Bar 
celona in 1933. There were forty-two smaller co-op's in other parts of 
the city and two hundred in the province. Many of these were 
agricultural, fishing, or industrial societies where all the land, fac 
tories, houses and instruments of labour were owned in common by 
the associates. One may safely say that nowhere else in Europe has 
collectivization been so successful, yet because this work has been car 
ried on quietly in an unpolitical atmosphere little has been heard of it. 
Certainly for all their drum-beating neither the Anarcho-Syndicalists 
nor the Socialists have ever produced anything to compare with this. 



THE SOCIALISTS 22J 

But then the Co-operatives aimed at immediate results. The others 
put off all realization of their theories till the day of their triumph. 

The Catholic Syndicates also require some notice. Catholic trade 
unions in Spain date from 1861, when an active and intelligent Jesuit, 
Father Vicente, organized the Centros Catolicos de Obreros in Valencia 
and in other places and affiliated them to the International Catholic 
labour movement. But neither the bishops nor the employers gave him 
any assistance and this promising movement fizzled out towards 1874. 

Leo XIIFs pontificate led to a change of attitude. For the first 
time since the eighteenth century the Spanish hierarchy awoke to the 
idea that there was a social question and that some attention must be 
paid to the working classes if they were to remain within the Church. 
The clergy were instructed to organize Catholic clubs and friendly 
societies. Assistance in illness and in unemployment was provided 
as well as funeral expenses. The members contributed something, but 
the bulk of the expenses was borne by the honorary members that 
is, the employers. This movement never came to anything because It 
depended upon their financial support. Either the societies declined 
into groups of blacklegs (as for example in Barcelona) or they came to 
an end for lack of funds. Those owners who did not care to organize 
unions of strike-breakers for use in their struggles with the U.G.T. or 
C.N.T. preferred to keep religion out of labour questions alto 
gether. This was especially the case in the country districts of the east 
and south, where the anti-religious feeling was strongest. Here one 
may say that by 1905 the Catholic working-class movement had 
ceased to exist. 

In the north the position was different. Here the Catholic unions, 
being able to draw on a predominantly Catholic population, were 
more successful. There were two types. The first consisted of working- 
class societies and clubs, which in 1910 were grouped together as the 
Consefo National de las Corporations* Catolicas Obreras under the 
presidency of the Archbishop of Toledo. They were friendly societies 
providing assistance in case of illness, old age and unemployment. In 
the country districts small loans were given to peasants without 
interest. But strikes were not permitted: employers and workmen 
were both members, and the Church adjudicated and preached mutual 
love between them. As time passed these societies naturally fell more 
and more under the control of the employers, who further gained by 
the co-operative arrangement by which they bought and sold in 
common. The interest of the workers in them declined. 



228 THE SOCIALISTS 

The other type of Catholic trade union Is best represented by the 
Federation National de Sindicatos Catolicos Libres, a Dominican asso 
ciation of a European type founded by Fathers Gerard and Gafo in 
1912. These were much more effective because they were genuine 
working-class organizations which defended the interests of their 
members by strikes and boycotts. They had great success in the 
Basque Provinces, in parts of Navarre and in the cities of Old Castile, 
and between 1917 and 1923 they developed an intense economic 
action. They had no scruples about co-operating with the Socialists 
and in Bilbao they regularly organized joint strikes in which Catholics 
and Socialists sat side by side on the strike committees. This did away 
with the reproach invariably levelled at Catholic associations that they 
supported the interests of the employers. Undoubtedly these syndi 
cates did a great deal, especially in the Basque provinces, to keep the 
workers within the body of the Church and to prevent them from 
going over to the Socialists, Although all the various types of Catholic 
associations expanded greatly during the Dictatorship, these were the 
only ones that stood the test of the Republic. 

So that we may say that the Catholic labour movement was suc 
cessful in those parts of Spain where the Church was not openly 
associated with the defence of the interests of the rich against the poor, 
and that it failed completely wherever the unequal distribution of the 
land had created an irreparable gulf between the classes. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER X 

A (p. 221). The Socialist unions that sprang up in the years 1910-1912 in Andalusia 
and the Levante were nearly all in places that had Republican antecedents and were 
therefore accustomed to vote. The Socialist party, whose propaganda was very bad 
(much worse than the Anarchists') did little to encourage them. The first to join were 
railwaymen and miners, if there were any; then came artisans and last of all agricul 
tural workers. The hill towns were much more susceptible than those in the river 
valleys. Granada, which might seem an exception to this, is 3000 feet above the sea 
and has a distinctly Castilian temperament. In every other part of Andalusia the 
conquests made by the Socialists in agricultural districts reverted in 1918 to the 
Anarcho- Syndicalists. 

B (p. 22 1 ). The best account of the events that led up to this strike is to be found in 
Pablo Iglesias, by Juan Jose' Morato, pp. 217-233. The salient factors are the im 
patience of the Anarcho-Syndicalists who had promised their assistance, the skilful 
provocation by the Government before the ground was prepared and the overruling 
of Iglesias by Largo Caballero and Anguiano. Those who had thought that the Army 
would make common cause with the strikers (as some regiments had done in 
Barcelona in 1909) were deceived; the cavalry charged unarmed strikers at Cuatro 
Caminos and the infantry opened fire on them. 



Part III 

THE REPUBLIC 

Inquietus est et magna moliens hispanorum animus* 

MICHAEL SERVETUS. 



Chapter XI 
THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

The French took three years of struggle and shed oceans of blood to win their 
liberty. All we have needed in Spain have been two days of explanation and one 
of rejoicing. ALCALA GALIANO in 1820. 

As we have seen from the previous pages, the picture presented by 
Spain at the moment of the proclamation of the Republic was by no 
means a simple one. The country was split, both vertically and 
horizontally, into a number of mutually antagonistic sections. To 
begin with there were the movements for local autonomy in Catalonia 
and among the Basques, which were opposed by an equally intran- 
sigeant centralist block in Castile. These autonomous movements, 
although they had their roots deep in Spanish history, had recently 
taken on the character of a rebellion on the part of the industrial 
interests in Spain against government by landowners. Thus the re 
volutionary movement of 1917 had parallel aims to the English Liberal 
Revolution of 1832. To consider the other side, the backbone of 
Castilian centralism was the Army, which drew its strength from the 
middle-class landowners who had been the chief gainers from the 
abortive Liberal Revolution of the early nineteenth century. The 
Army naturally collected round it the other conservative forces In the 
country, the King and the Church, though in the latter case there was 
a limit to the support it would give, due to the fact that the claims of 
the Church were so high that no other body of opinion in the country 
could back them. In its own way the Army was anti-clerical. A 
further feature was the fronde which it carried on with the political 
parties, who represented exactly the same material interests and even 
the same families that it did itself. 



230 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

The working classes too were divided among themselves into two 
sections the Socialists and the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Their dif 
ferences were also, to a certain extent, of a regional sort. But whereas 
one may safely say that on the whole Socialism represented Castilian 
centralism and Anarcho-Syndicalism the federal and autonomous 
movement of the east and south, one would further not be far wrong in 
asserting that Socialism stood mainly for the urban proletariat and 
shopworkers and Anarcho-Syndicalism for the landless labourers of 
the large estates the only exception to this (a large one it is true) being 
Catalonia. As we have already pointed out, an agrarian settlement 
in Spain, if such a thing were possible, would reduce Anarcho- 
Syndicalism to the dimensions of a purely Catalan movement. In a 
Spain, that had gone Socialist, Catalan Anarcho- Syndicalism would 
have the same relations with Madrid that the Lliga and Esquerra had 
had with the Monarchist parties: it would appear as a Catalan separa 
tist movement. 

Under ail the unrest and revolutionary action of the last hundred 
years lies the agrarian question. Reactionary farmers in Navarre 
(Carlists), peasants with a grievance in Catalonia (rabassaires), in 
surrectionary day labourers in Andalusia (anarchists), revolutionary 
peasant farmers and labourers on the Central tableland and in Extre- 
madura (socialists) all have made their contribution to the witches' 
cauldron. The conditions under which they lived were such that no 
one could deny that they had good reasons for their actions. When 
one remembers that the urban masses were by this time almost all 
under Socialist or Anarcho-Syndicalist leaders, one cannot help won 
dering how it was that Spain was still governable. Clearly unless very 
radical land reforms were introduced, it would soon cease to be so. 
But it happened unfortunately that these reforms were peculiarly 
complex and difficult. The agrarian question could not be solved, as 
in other European countries, by distributing plots of land to individual 
peasants and advancing them credits. Collective solutions would 
often be necessary. This presupposed a large staff of technical ad 
visers, a fair amount of time and patience, and an organizing capacity 
precisely things which no Spanish administration has ever pos 
sessed. There were also, on the part of all the non-socialist parties, 
strong objections to the organization of peasants on a collective basis. 
Yet till the agrarian question had been solved, or at least considerably 
ameliorated, there could be no hope of peaceable life or development 
for Spain. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 231 

Between the old governing classes Army, Church and landowners 
and the peasants and factory workers there stood a thin but politi 
cally very active layer the lower-middle class of the towns. This was 
the class which had taken the lead in all the revolutions through which 
Spain had passed since 1856, yet it had never except for brief revolu 
tionary periods enjoyed power. Recently it had lost a considerable 
number of its members (especially among the artisan class) to the 
Socialists and Anarcho-Syndicalists, but it had compensated to some 
extent for this by the increase in the numbers of the small tradesmen 
who formed the bulk of its membership. Now, though broken up into 
various groups which easily combined and fused with one another, it 
formed the kernel of the Republican parties. Some 80 per cent of the 
intellectuals, school teachers and journalists, together with a fair 
number of the professional classes, sympathized with it. Its political 
centre of gravity corresponded to what used in England to be called 
Radical opinions. And, like the Liberal parties of the first half of the 
nineteenth century, of which it was the reincarnation, it was strongly 
anti-clerical. 

The task that now lay before this party and its allies was a singularly 
difficult one. On the one hand there were the old governing classes 
led by the Army, who would certainly seize the first opportunity to 
rise against it. Having successfully overthrown every Left govern 
ment that had come in during the last hundred years, they had no 
reason to doubt their ability to overthrow this one also. On the other 
hand, there were the working classes and the peasants, over-confident 
of their strength, impatient from long waiting and inspired by revolu 
tionary ideologies. The Republican parties, who were themselves 
comparatively weak and subject to great fluctuations in their member 
ship, would have to hold the balance between these two menacing 
forces whilst the essential reforms were passed. And by essential I 
mean not merely those political reforms in which the Republicans 
took a special interest, but such solid satisfactions as would give them 
a dependable backing in the country. They were called upon to carry 
out, not a Socialist Revolution, but a long overdue Jacobin one, which 
would take the power from the landowners and give it to the lower- 
middle classes backed by a contented peasantry. 

The chief problem that they would have to solve would be, as I 
have said, the complex agrarian question. But there was another 
difficulty which in its way was just as great, though it has been more 
generally overlooked. This derived from the fact that they carne into 



232 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

power at a moment when every party in Spain, both those of the Right 
and those of the Left, had been steadily increasing in strength and in 
pugnacity for the last thirty years. The Army, though temporarily 
taken aback by the fall of the Dictatorship, was more aggressive than 
It had been in 1900. The Church likewise. Of the forces of the Right, 
only the Monarchy had lost. As to the Left, both the Socialists and 
the Anarcho-Syndicalists were immeasurably stronger and more con 
fident than they had ever been before. It was true that the Republic 
came in on an irresistible wave of popularity and that among more or 
less neutral opinion there was a desire for reforms. So long as this 
feeling lasted, no threat from either side need be feared. But neutrals 
cannot for long be relied upon and there was no reason to suppose 
that their enthusiasm would outlast the first disappointments. One 
might expect therefore that when this first rush of popularity sub 
sided, the revolutionary forces of the Right and of the Left would be 
left to confront one another, with only a weakened Republican party 
to separate them. 

It will be remembered that it was the victory of the Republican 
parties in the large towns in the municipal elections of April 1931 that 
sent the King into exile. The elections to the Constituent Cortes 
followed two months later. They gave, both in the country districts 
and^in the towns, an enormous majority to the Republicans and their 
Socialist allies. The Left-wing Republican groups obtained some 150 
deputies: the Right-wing Republicans just over 100 (the largest party 
among these, the Radicals, getting 90): the Socialists obtained 115. 
On the other hand the parties which had not desired the proclamation 
of the Republic obtained little more than fifty deputies and of these 
only nineteen were confirmed Monarchists. But even these figures do 
not show how great was the landslide, for the majorities by which the 
Republican parties were returned in the towns were colossal: in 
Madrid they averaged 120,000 and in the smaller towns 30,000. The 
whole country had turned with remarkable unanimity against the 
Dictatorship and against the King. 

The Cortes elected in July gave promise of being in every way 
worthy of the task it had been called upon to perform. The personal 
distinction of many of its members was high. During the past few 
years Spanish life had touched a pinnacle of culture and intelligence 
which it had not known since the middle of the seventeenth century 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 233 

and the new men elected few of them had sat in any previous Cortes 
were fully up to the standard required by it. It was an assembly of 
notables at least as much as a delegation of interests. 

We have seen that the parties which brought in the Republic fell 
naturally into three sections: the Socialists, the Left Republicans and 
the Right Republicans. The Socialist party at this moment was re 
markably united. Its two leading figures, Francisco Largo Caballero 
and Indalecio Prieto, were both in favour of entering the Government 
in collaboration with the Republicans. Besteiro alone, adopting what 
one might almost call a syndicalist attitude, dissented from this view, 
but accepted the post of Speaker of the Cortes. 

The Right-wing Republicans consisted in the main of the so-called 
Radical party, whose leader was Alejandro Lerroux. These Radicals 
had a somewhat shady reputation. They had appeared suddenly in 
Barcelona in 1904 as a violently demagogic and anti-clerical party, had 
been pushed forward by the Liberal Governments of the time to 
keep out the Catalan Nationalists and during their lengthy tenure of 
the Barcelona Municipality had set up a building racket out of which 
they had made huge sums of money. After 1909 many of their sup 
porters left them to join either the Syndicalists or one of the Left 
Catalan parties, and they took several steps to the Right. The fall of 
the Monarchy made them the party of Conservative Republicanism. 
All over the country the middle and lower-middle classes who were 
tired of the King and had little love either for the Army or the Church 
voted for them. Prepared at first for a few reforms, they took fright as 
soon as they saw the rising excitement in the country. The Radicals 
were moreover the only party in the Cortes to be led by politicians of 
the old type who were not always over particular as to the means by 
which they acquired money. Their Caudillo, Lerroux, was a man of 
humble origin who had risen, no one could say exactly how, to be the 
owner of a luxurious house and considerable property. His debts 
were famous. The type of vulgar Latin politician of the first decade of 
this century, he and most of his party were out of place in this Cortes 
of enthusiasts who were there to build, each according to his own 
ideas, a new Spain. 1 

1 Lerroux was the son of a sergeant-major, but was brought up by bis tmcle, a 
priest, to whom he acted first as acolyte and then as sacristan. His youthful educa 
tion left him with a detestation of everything connected with religion. After an 
adventurous career as a journalist and public speaker he founded the Radical party 
which, thanks partly to the mysterious sums of money on which it could draw and 
partly to his violent oratory, had an immense and rapid popular success in Barcelona. 



234 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

The Left Republicans, who formed the largest group in the Cortes, 
were made up of the Esquerra (the Catalan Nationalist party of the 
Left) and of three Spanish parties whose views and antecedents were 
very similar: Republican Action, led by Manuel Azaria: the Radical 
Socialists, who included Marcelino Domingo and Alvaro de Albornoz, 
and the Republicans from Galicia, who followed Casares Quiroga. 
Their views were what in England would be called Radical. They 
represented the more active and progressive members of the middle 
and lower-middle classes and they had a programme of reforms which 
would, they hoped, give them the support of sufficient numbers of the 
working classes to arrest the revolutionary movement which had been 
growing steadily since 1917. They aimed, in other words, at the con 
clusion of the Liberal Revolution which had been begun in 1812, but 
which military pronundamientos, reactionary courts and a Church 
that still lived among the ideas of the seventeenth century had long 
ago brought to a standstill. 

As one would expect, these Left Republican parties contained a 
large number of intellectuals. The famous 'generation of 98', whose 
political convictions had been formed by the loss of the last remnants 
of the colonial empire, as well as the pick of the professional classes 
the doctors, lawyers and university professors who owed their position 
to the magnificent education given them by the Institucion Libre 
de Ensenanza sympathized with them. They included the great 
majority of schoolmasters. Their headquarters were the Ateneo in 
Madrid, the famous literary and political club which during the last 
hundred years had included aU the more distinguished figures of 
Spanish Hfe among its members. The Ateneo had been closed by 
Primo de Rivera a thing which even the most reactionary govern 
ments of Isabel II had not dared to do and from that moment it 
became the focus of the Republican movement. A few months before 
the Monarchy fell Manuel Azana was elected to be its President. 1 

1 A great deal has been made of the freemasonry of the Republican parties. As a 
matter of fact nearly all the Monarchist politicians and most of the Army generals 
before 1931 were masons. The King himself is said to have been one and practising 
Catholics often occupied high positions in the lodges. That is to say, freemasonry 
had ceased to have any political or anti-clerical connotations and had become a mere 
friendly society as it is in England. Then towards 1930 the Republicans began to 
invade the lodges and made it their business to restore them to their old function. 
During the first years of the Republic the Madrid lodges formed a convenient 
meeting-place for Republican politicians and a Hnk between the Radicals and the 
groups that followed Azana. 

Broadly speaking one may say that being a mason meant belonging, in however 
tenuous a way, to the nineteenth-century Liberal tradition. Thus among the Socialists 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 235 

The first Government of the Republic was formed in July and 
included members of all the Republican parties. It proceeded at once 
to a discussion of the new Constitution. This was to be followed by 
that of certain complementary laws, of which the most important were 
the Catalan Statute and the Law of Agrarian Reform. For a time the 
work of the Cortes went rapidly and smoothly. The Revolutionary 
Committee which brought in the Republic had taken great pains to 
settle the general outlines of the Constitution, so that no unforeseen 
disagreement should wreck it. The failure of the First Republic in 
1873 had not been forgotten. Thus one of the first acts of the Pro 
visional Government had been to set up a commission which should 
cast this outline into a legal shape that could be debated by the 
Cortes. The result of this careful preparation was that the first twenty- 
five articles were passed after due discussion within three months. It 
was the twenty-sixth article, which dealt with the position of the 
Church in the new State, that provoked the first serious opposition 
and finally a crisis which brought down the Government. 

The reason for this crisis was as follows. The Juridical Commission 
set up by the Provisional Government had drafted an article which 
declared the Church to be separated from the State but gave it the 
position of a special corporation de derecho publico. By the terms of 
this corporation it could have its own schools and, on certain con 
ditions, give religious teaching in State schools. Canonical marriage 
would be regarded as legal, and public ecclesiastical functions could 
take place providing that those who took part in them had sworn 
allegiance to the Republic. Such an arrangement would have been 
accepted by the great majority of Catholics. It fulfilled Ortega y 
Gasset's dictum that in dealing with a historical and international 
body such as the Church *one must act with a certain generosity on 
account of the forces of the past which it represents: but one must 
also act with caution*. 

However, the majority of the Cortes found the provisions of this 
draft far too lenient. They held that the granting of a special status to 
the Church was tantamount to recognizing that it had sovereign rights, 
and drew up an article by which it was to be regarded as an ordinary 
association subject to the general laws of the country. Further, the 

Prieto was a mason, but not Largo Caballero: among Catholic Conservatives 
Alcald Zamora and Miguel Maura, but not Gil Robles: among the generals, San- 
jurjo, Mola, Queipo de Llano, Batet and Goded, but not Franco. A few of the 
Anarchist intellectuals were masons, but, it would appear, no genuine Marxists* 



236 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

annual State grant to the clergy (about 67 million pesetas) was to 
cease, all convents were to be dissolved and their goods nationalized 
and all religious schools with the exception of the seminaries were to 
be closed. 

To understand the reasons for this aggressively anti-clerical attitude 
one must bear In mind not only the history of the Spanish Church 
during the past hundred years, but also Its recent attitude. The 
Republic had come In as a reaction against the Dictatorship and the 
Monarchy: the Church has been the strongest supporter of both. 
During the recent elections it had deliberately identified the cause of 
the Monarchy with that of the Catholic religion. In the Catholic 
press and in the pulpit the Republican candidates had often been 
denounced as 'sold to Moscow gold'. 

Then, a bare two weeks after the proclamation of the Republic, the 
Cardinal Primate of Spain, Mgr Segura, had issued a violently mili 
tant pastoral against the Government. It was true that the majority of 
the hierarchy showed a more correct attitude, but that was thought to 
be due rather to prudence than to good Intentions. The working 
classes at all events had no doubts as to who their chief enemy might 
be. In reply to a demonstration at a Monarchist club and to an article 
In the A.B.C., the crowds attacked a new Jesuit church in Madrid and 
burned it, and on the following day the conflagration spread, as if by 
magic, all over Spain. Dozens of churches and convents were de 
stroyed, especially in Andalusia. 1 

The vote of the majority of the Cortes showed that the deputies 
were still under the spell of these emotions. They might argue that, 
since not more than 20 per cent of all the inhabitants of Spain were 
practising Catholics, they were merely reducing the Church to its true 
dimensions and importance. They could further point out that it was 
hardly fair that Spaniards who were not Catholics should contribute 

1 In six large towns alone (Madrid, Seville, Malaga, Granada, Murcia, Valencia) 
102 churches and convents were completely destroyed. On the walls of the new 
Jesuit church in the Gran Via was chalked up Lajusticia del pueblo por Ladrones: 
* The justice of the people on thieves/ 

These outrages and the apparent ease with which they were accomplished (due to 
surprise or panic, not to indifference: the Minister for Home Affairs, Miguel Maura, 
was a Conservative and a Catholic) produced symptoms of strong religious emotion 
among Catholics. The damas catequistas marched through the streets singing hymns. 
Pilgrimages were organized to adore the Santo Sudario in Oviedo. There was also a 
remarkable crop of miracles. Relics abandoned to the flames turned up later un 
scathed; a 'communist 1 who had fired his revolver at a Crucifixion fell back dead. 
Miracles never go out of date in Spain and during the next few years there was to be 
no lack of them. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 237 

to the expenses of the cult. But in fact their speeches and actions 
showed that they saw in the Church the chief support and maiatainer 
of reaction and wished, by striking both at its funds and at its right to 
educate the young, to destroy its power once and for all in the country. 
It does not seem to have occurred to them that, by a more prudent 
conduct, they might have created a party for themselves within the 
Church. Many of the parish priests had voted for a republic. They 
were for the most part extremely poor, whilst the monastic orders 
were rolling in money and the bishops had large incomes. The Arch 
diocese of Toledo alone brought in 600,000 pesetas yearly. But 
naturally when they saw that the Cortes, which they had hoped might 
do something for them, had voted for cutting off their incomes 
altogether, they turned and became rabidly anti-Republican. The 
Republic also raised hopes among the more sincere elements in the 
Church the Catholic intellectuals and those who saw that religion 
must be more than a means of supporting the rich against the poor. 
These included certain of the teaching Orders whose members had 
been trained abroad. By favouring them the Republicans would have 
been assisting the Spanish Church to raise itself to the intellectual and 
moral level of Catholicism in other countries and incidentally would 
have found a badly needed support for themselves. They preferred, in 
the moment of their triumph, to throw down the gauntlet. 

But their action split the Government. After prolonged discussion 
the Minister for War, Azana, brought forward a modification of their 
project by which the monastic orders, with the exception of the 
Jesuits, were to be allowed to remain (though not to continue 
teaching) and the State grant to the Church was to be continued for 
two years. This, after further stormy discussion, was passed, but the 
Prime Minister, Alcala Zamora and Miguel Maura, the Minister for 
Home Affairs (both Conservatives) resigned and the Basque deputies 
walked out of the Cortes and refused to return to it 1 

The unwisdom of this measure is to-day evident. For one thing it 
has always been a serious matter to legislate against religion in Spain. 
The mere abolition of the Inquisition by the Cortes of 1812 led to 
fearful persecutions by the Church and to a long religious war. In the 
revolutionary Cortes of 1869 a clause permitting civil marriage and 
freedom of worship for non-Catholics was only passed after weeks of 
discussion, although none of the other measures of this radical con 
stitution met with serious opposition. The Republicans were therefore 
1 See Note A on p. 262 at end of chapter. 



238 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

asking for trouble in striking so boldly at the Church. Not only were 
they losing a certain number of their own supporters and alienating 
many waverers, but they were providing the reaction with a rallying 
cry which it badly needed. The logical consequence of their act was 
that henceforth they must lean less upon middle-class support and 
more upon that of the working classes, or else they would fall. But 
absorbed as they were in the political passions of the moment, they 
did not see this. 1 

Another lesser consequence was the effect which the inhibition of 
the religious orders from teaching had upon education. Half the 
secondary schools in Spain were threatened with having to close down 
altogether. The effect upon primary schools was almost as serious. In 
Madrid, for example, 37,000 children were being educated in the 
State schools, 44,000 in private schools mostly run by the Orders and 
45,000 were receiving no education at all. To fill the place of the 
Church schools, 2700 new State schools were needed. 2 Yet by 1933 
little progress had been made in providing them. One must admit 
that, in spite of all the propaganda put forward by the Republican 
parties, then* achievements in the field of education were mostly on 
paper. It was not that they lacked the good will on the contrary, 
they were the first body of men in Spain to treat the matter seriously 
but the problem was one that required many years of preparation and 
a great expenditure of money if satisfactory results were to be ob 
tained. The dissolution of the Jesuit Order likewise missed its mark. 
Their property was found to be for the most part invested under 
other names, whilst the fact that the Fathers had nominally ceased to 
be members of a religious order set them free to continue their work 
of education. 

The debate on the religious question brought to the front Manuel 
Azafia. He was a completely new man. Until the fall of the Dictator 
ship he had been unknown outside a small circle of friends. In 
appearance he was not exactly prepossessing. A short stumpy man 
with a green bilious complexion and staring expressionless eyes, he 
reminded people who saw him for the first time of a toad or frog. His 
history had been uneventful. Bom like Cervantes in Alcala de 
Henares, in a house between two convents, he had lost both his 
parents whilst still a child and had had a hard and gloomy youth. The 
two years he had spent studying law at the Augustinian College at the 

1 See Note B on p. 262 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note C on p. 262 at end of chapter. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 230 

Escorial had left him with a strong dislike for the Church, Since then 
he had lived alone in his house at Alcala or in Madrid, seeing few 
people and immersed in his books. He wrote, but without much 
success : his chief productions were an autobiographical novel which 
sold few copies and translations of Borrow's Bible in Spain and of 
Bertrand Russell. Then he turned to politics and for a time acted as 
secretary to one of the small Republican parties that came into exis 
tence in the years preceding the Dictatorship. His chief resort, where 
from now on he was always to be found, was the Ateneo: he was 
elected President of this famous literary and political club in 1930 and 
it was his activity in organizing a Republican movement here during 
the last months of the Monarchy and in launching a party which 
obtained twenty-six seats in the Constituent Cortes that brought him 
a post in the cabinet. As Minister for War he showed tact and firm 
ness in purging the Army and his strong personality made itself felt 
among the other members of the Government. Now he became 
Prime Minister. During the rest of this Cortes he was by far and away 
the leading figure. 'The man with the brilliant future behind him', as 
the Trotskyist Maurin called him, until the rise of a revolutionary 
Socialist movement he dominated the political scene. There are various 
reasons for this. In the first place, he was a man of action who made 
himself feared by all the enemies of the Republic, whether like the 
Anarchists they came from the Left or like the generals from the Right. 
Then he showed, more than any other Republican politiciaD, the 
qualities of a statesman and parliamentarian without ever compro 
mising his honesty. It was mainly due to his drive and persistence 
that the huge mass of new legislation was piloted through an in 
creasingly recalcitrant Cortes. But the cause of Azana's greatness lies 
deeper than this. Just as Abraham Lincoln lived for American de 
mocracy and came to stand as a symbol for it, so Azana lived for and 
embodied the idea of the Spanish Republic. 'La Republique, c'est 
moi 5 was the burden of most of his speeches, yet his sincerity and 
conviction were such that in spite of his often high-handed ways, not 
even his enemies ever accused him of ambition. It is less important in 
Spain to be liked than to be respected. 

The Constitution was completed by the end of the year and the 
first President of the Republic was elected. The man chosen was 
Niceto Alcala Zamora, who had been premier until October, when he 
resigned on account of his disagreement with Article 26. Don Niceto 
was an Andalusian lawyer and landowner, the very man to be Presi- 



240 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

dent of a safely established Latin Republic highly respectable, ex 
tremely conscientious, a commonplace but flowery orator and, at all 
events in Spanish eyes, a little ridiculous. They called him Botas> 
4 Old Boots 5 . He had been a protege of Romanones and had held a 
portfolio in one of Alfonso's last governments. Having been shabbily 
treated by him, he had nursed his pique and become a Republican. In 
the elections that brought in the new regime he had received enor 
mous majorities in several of the large towns because the Catholic and 
Conservative middle classes had voted for him. For he was the 
guarantee that the Republic would not move to the Left. Being a 
sincere Catholic he accepted the Presidency in the hopes of some day 
being able to amend the anti-clerical clauses in the Constitution. At 
the same time Lerroux and his Radical party left the Government and 
adopted a neutral attitude. Azana formed a new cabinet of Left 
Republicans and Socialists. 

An Anarchist putsch in the Llobregat Valley near Barcelona took 
place in January 1932 and the strikes which had been going on all 
autumn broke out again. Azana showed a heavy hand with the Anar 
chists and deported many of them to Africa conduct which alienated 
the workers but conciliated the bourgeoisie, who began to feel that the 
Republic might not be so bad after all. The new divorce law was 
passed in spite of further opposition from the Church and in May the 
simultaneous discussion of the Catalan and Agrarian Statutes began. 

Down to the coming of the Dictatorship the only political party of 
any consequence in Catalonia had been the Lliga. This, as we have 
seen, was the party of the bourgeoisie Catholic and Conservative, 
but with a Conservatism based like the English on industry and not on 
landed estates. In 1917 it had for a moment aligned itself with the 
Socialists and with the small Republican party in a revolutionary 
attitude. Since the failure of this venture it had grown more Conser 
vative and clerical. The syndicalist struggle in Barcelona in the years 
1919-1923 had then driven it still farther to the Right and had shown 
that its local nationalism counted for much less than its class feeling. 
It had ended by allying itself with the Army, that is, with the most 
anti-Catalan force in Spain, and had welcomed the coup d'etat that 
brought in the Dictatorship. When Primo de Rivera then showed his 
ingratitude by destroying the Mancomunidad, as the very moderate 
form of home rule then in force was called, and by rooting up every 
element of Catalan culture, the Lliga lost most of its former influence. 
The Dictatorship, however, strongly stimulated the growth of Catalan 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 241 

national feeling and led to its spread among the lower-middle classes. 
The Lliga being discredited, they sought to enter one of the many 
small Nationalist groups with Left sympathies that existed at this 
time. The result was a coalition of Left groups into a single party, the 
Esquerra or Catalan Left. This was made easier by the discovery of a 
suitable leader in Colonel Macia, a tall handsome gentleman with 
white hair and moustaches, who became a national hero by organizing 
ineffective plots from beyond the French frontier. When Primo de 
Rivera fell, Cambo, the leader of the Lliga, finally mined his party by 
his attempts to prop up the King. At the municipal elections in April 
1931, the Esquerra swept the board and Macia returned in triumph. 1 

A far-reaching statute of autonomy for Catalonia was now a neces 
sity. Indeed the impetuous Colonel, on the day following the 
announcement of the election results, had proclaimed an independent 
Catalan republic from the balcony of the Generalidad. This was soon 
after rectified, but a few months later, when the draft of a statute 
drawn up by a committee of the Cortes was submitted to a referendum, 
over 99 per cent of the votes were in its favour. The statute was 
brought up before the Cortes in the following May. For months it 
was fiercely contested, but at last, shorn of a few of its privileges, it 
was passed (September, 1932). The Castilian prejudices against it 
had been overcome only by the persistence of Azafia, and he was 
rewarded by knowing that the Republic had won in the Catalan people 
its strongest body of supporters. 2 

A few weeks before it was finally approved, a military insurrection 
broke out at Seville. Its leader was General Sanjurjo, a soldier who 
had made a name for himself in Morocco and who was very popular 
among the troops. A year before, as Commander of the Civil Guard, 
he had been responsible for the entry of the Republic without blood 
shed by his refusal to place his force at the disposal of the King. His 
pronunciamiento was defeated by a general strike of the C.N/T. before 
he could obtain any support. A simultaneous rising of Monarchists, 
who attempted to capture the War Office, was put down without 
difficulty in Madrid. Sanjurjo J s movement was a protest against the 

1 At the elections for the Cortes in June the Esquerra obtained an even more 
sweeping triumph. Its vote was five times that of the Lliga in Catalonia, and in 
Barcelona all its fourteen candidates were elected, whereas only one member of the 
Lliga got in. Macia alone obtained 109,300 votes. His rival Cambo had become so 
unpopular through his support of the King that he had to flee the country. 

2 So intense was the dislike of the Right-wing Castilians to Catalan autonomy that 
Royo Villanovo, a deputy who had led the opposition to it in the Cortes, became 
a hero and was elected to several constituencies in the 1933 elections. 



242 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

Catalan Statute and the Law of Agrarian Reform which were then 
being debated, and he was thought to have the secret support of 
various Republican politicians . His aim was in all probability not a 
restoration of the King, but a Conservative Republic in which the 
Army would have the lion's share. 

The ease with which the Government put down this rising im 
mensely strengthened it. The immediate consequence was the rapid 
passage of the Catalan Statute and of the Law of Agrarian Reform, 
which had been held up all summer. The repression, however, was 
thought by many to be unnecessarily severe. Of the 157 people 
brought to trial the majority were found guilty and deported to Villa 
Cisneros, a healthy but excessively disagreeable colony on the African 
coast. Two Bourbon princes were among them. Sanjurjo himself was 
given a long sentence of imprisonment. By a special bill passed 
through the Cortes before the trials began, the property of the rebels 
was confiscated and handed over to the Institute of Agrarian Reform. 

The success or failure of the Republic would clearly depend upon 
its ability to conciliate the working classes. This meant of course that 
it must secure a general rise of wages without increasing unemploy 
ment. But it also meant its ability to carry into effect a serious 
measure of agrarian reform. This would be regarded by the working 
classes as the measure of its sincerity and would in the long run give 
the regime the stability which it needed. Let us see what success it 
was having in this. 

It was the misfortune of the Republic that the world crisis broke 
just before it came in. Prime's regime had benefited by the boom 
indeed without it he could never have maintained himself for so long. 
It produced high prices for agricultural products which led to the 
ploughing up of large areas of third-class land, decreased unemploy 
ment and slightly increased wages. The slump had the opposite effect: 
agricultural prices fell, a great deal of land went out of cultivation and 
unemployment reached a figure never known before. 

The Provisional Government passed a number of decrees for re 
medying the distressing situation in the country districts : wages were 
nearly doubled (it must be remembered that, since in most parts of 
Spain agricultural labour is seasonal, the wages need to be large 
enough to cover unemployment subsistence): landlords were com 
pelled to cultivate all their land : tenant farmers were given the right to 
appeal against an increase of rents and were protected against capri 
cious eviction: an eight-hour day was established. Later, on Socialist 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 243 

pressure, other measures were passed a Ley de Terminos Municipales 
to prevent landlords from employing cheap emigrant labour 1 and a 
Ley dejurados Mixtos which established tribunals at which workmen 
and employers met to decide hours and wages and to settle industrial 
disputes. This was a modification of the comites paritarios set up by 
Primo de Rivera, but redrafted so as to be more favourable to the 
workers. 

The unrest spread however in the country districts as the dis 
cussion of the Constitution, which did not interest the working classes, 
continued and nothing was done about agrarian reform. There had 
been a general expectation that all the large estates would be expro 
priated, and the disappointment was great when it became evident 
that this would not be done. These two years (1931-1932) were 
moreover a period of Anarcho-Syndicalist expansion: their bitter 
attacks on the Socialists 1 participation in the Government and their 
refusal to have anything to do with the social legislation passed by the 
Cortes were producing a revolutionary atmosphere in the campo, 
which was unfavourable to the success of any agrarian scheme. But 
the chief reason for the dangerous delay in tackling this question was 
the disagreement between the Socialists and the Republicans as to the 
form it should take. Agrarian reform projects had become focused on 
the question of breaking up the large estates : but whereas the Repub 
licans wished that the land so obtained should be split up into 
individual holdings, the Socialists demanded that it should be used to 
form collectives. 

The difference was more than one of abstract principle: it involved 
the future of Socialism and of bourgeois Republicanism in Spain. The 
Republicans knew that the success of their regime would in the long 
run depend on whether or not they could create a peasantry who 
would be grateful to their protectors and sufficiently conservative to 
form a bulwark against revolution. The Socialists knew that they 
must at all costs prevent this and therefore proposed a collective 
organization of the land, which, in Castile and Extremadura at all 
events, would come under their influence. Except in Anarchist dis- 

1 The justification for the Ley de Terminos Municipales was the use which land 
lords made of emigrant labourers from Galicia or Portugal or from the neighbouring 
hill villages to undercut local men. But its provisions were too drastic. In effect it 
penalized the wretchedly poor and politically unorganized peasants of the small 
pueblos, who depended on the money they earned at harvest to get through the year, 
for the benefit of the labourers on the large estates, who were usually syndicated to 
the U.G.T. or C.N.T. 



244 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

tricts such collectives would Inevitably be syndicated with the U.G.T. 
With this object they had organized in 1931 the Federation Espanola 
de Trabajadores de la Tierra of the U.G.T., which in Catalonia in 
cluded the Catalan Rabassaires, whose political affiliations were not 
with the Socialists but with the radical Esquerra party. This Federa 
tion at once started a strong propaganda movement In favour of 
agricultural collectives. 

As it happens, geography was on the side of the Socialist plan. For 
reasons that have been explained In a previous chapter, the lot of the 
individual small holder in a dry farming district Is an extremely 
difficult one. He Is condemned to a perpetual struggle against an 
unfavourable environment, and even if he does not succumb to the 
first drought or sink into hopeless debt, he has no prospect of rising 
above a crushing poverty. If, in spite of this, individual holdings were 
to be established on unirrigated land, the most careful preparation 
would be required: modem machinery must be provided on a com 
munal basis, a credit system organized and the plots carefully sur 
veyed and divided. Moreover, only selected peasants could be set up 
on these plots: certainly not Inexperienced landless labourers. But 
unfortunately none of the materials for a large-scale organization of 
this kind were present. There was a great shortage of engineers and 
technical advisers, and among the Republican leaders a sluggishness 
and lack of drive that contrasted vividly with their interest in political 
questions, which, being more familiar to them, could be settled in 
discussions at cafe tables or in club armchairs. 1 

And there was another aspect. The world crisis, as we have said, 
had mined agricultural markets. Farmers were having their work cut 
out to keep solvent. The prospect of confiscation under some as yet 
unsettled agrarian law increased the general consternation. Banks 
withheld credit and, in spite of all the laws and decrees to prevent it, 
more and more land was going out of cultivation. The Republican 
parties had a considerable following among the small landlords and 
these now made their influence felt. The result was an agrarian law of 
very modest proportions which in Its practical results turned out to be 
insignificant. 

Briefly, the Agrarian Statute (passed in two parts, in July and 
September 1932) set up an Institute of Agrarian Reform of twenty- 
one members and provided It with yearly credits from the State : this 
Institute, working through regional committees, was to decide what 

1 See Note D on p. 263 at end of chapter. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 245 

estates were to be expropriated and how the land so taken was to be 
settled. In principle every estate of more than 56 acres that was not 
worked by the owners was liable to expropriation by the State. One 
particular class, the grandees, lost their estates without appeal. Com 
pensation was paid, but it was on the basis of the taxation returns 
submitted by the owners : so that, since nearly every landowner had 
for years been sending in false returns, he would tend to lose from half 
to a third of the capital value of his property. The State would thus 
regain some of the money lost to it by generations of dishonesty. As to 
the discrimination against the grandees, this was a political measure. 
Just as a century before the Church lands had been taken because the 
monks and priests supported the Carlist cause, so the grandees were to 
be deprived of their landed property to weaken the influence of the 
King. The rising of General Sanjurjo in August led to further expro 
priations against those implicated in it for which no compensation was 
paid. 1 

One should observe that the Agrarian Statute applied only to the 
centre and south to that part of the country where large estates are 
common. For although in theory small properties could be confis 
cated, the intention was to do so very sparingly and mainly for the 
creation of allotments outside villages. The Statute confined itself to 
an attack upon the age-long problem of the latifundia. Nothing was 
done to assist the innumerable families in the north who had too little 
land or to convert the variable and usually excessive rents of Castile 
into a fixed censo or bail hereditaire. 2 Here one may say that the 
Republican parties lost a great opportunity, not only of curing some 

1 The proposals put forward by Diaz del Moral in a speech in the Cortes on 10 
May 1932 suggested that expropriation should be made by converting full ownership 
into a derecho real de censo. This could be done without any disturbance of the 
agrarian structure : tenants would pay 4 per cent interest on the capital value and 
have absolute security of tenure. He also proposed that some of the large estates 
should be turned into experimental c associations of land workers ' and be provided 
with technical advisers and machinery. Further that all landless labourers should be 
given allotments of good land near their homes to assist them through the seasonal 
unemployment. These proposals would seem to have much to recommend them. 

The project of agrarian reform actually adopted was based partly on the theories 
of Henry George and partly on the experience of land partition in Czecho-Slovakia. 
The collectives which the Socialists wished to introduce were to be modelled on the 
Russian kolkhoses (Russian Agrarian Code of 1922). No doubt the Socialists' 
leaders were unaware of the details of the ruthless collectivization of peasant holdings 
which was being enforced at that moment in Russia, though it was of course due to 
this that collectivization had suddenly become such a blessed word. 

2 According to Mateo Azpeitia, a Conservative critic of the Project of Agrarian 
Reform, 84 per cent of the small proprietors in Spain needed wages in order to be 
able to live: La Reforma Agraria en Espana, 1932. 



246 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

of the crying abuses of the country-side, but of gaining adherents for 
themselves and strengthening the regime. The question that should 
have been put before all others was, mainly because it held little 
emotional interest for the lawyers and professional men who made up 
the Republican party, taken up late and debated in a half-hearted 
manner. 1 And since the solution arrived at left open the question of 
how the expropriated estates were to be divided, the dreary deadlock 
between the Socialists and the Republicans continued and nothing 
was done at all. Against the local opposition of the U.G.T. or C.N.T., 
who objected to an increase in the number of individual holdings, no 
simple reparto was possible. 

The autumn of 1932 saw Azana at the height of his career. In the 
eyes of Europe the new Spanish Republic had taken root and con 
solidated itself. Spain, it seemed, had ceased to be the country of the 
Black Legend a semi-Balkan nation with a glorious history and had 
become one of the most modern and dignified states in Europe. This 
was the moment chosen for introducing a budget. The Dictatorship, 
it will be remembered, had left the finances of the country in the worst 
condition. Instead of taking the advice of Cambo, who had made the 
mistake of being born a Catalan, Primo de Rivera had chosen as his 
finance minister a Galician lawyer, Calvo Sotelo, whose talents were 
better suited to organizing rebellion than to finance. The result was an 
increase in the deficit of the national debt of from 417 to 924 million 
pesetas within four years. Hardly had the Republic come in when the 
economic crisis threw new burdens on the State. The railways, which 
were heavily over-capitalized, collapsed. Markets dried up. The am 
bitious education programme, the increase in the numbers of the 
police, the Statute of Agrarian Reform all required additional expen 
diture. Under these circumstances the finance minister, Jaime Garner 
(who incidentally was a Catalan), performed a miracle. In one year 
the deficit was reduced to 576 million pesetas and in the second to 

1 A Marxist and an Anarchist are both agreed as to the prime error made by the 
Republic : 

*The Republicans', wrote Maurin, * never understood the importance of the 
ampo : therefore they were defeated.* 

* Had the Republicans % wrote Solidaridad Obrera, { at once expropriated without 
indemnity all the large estates, as happened in the French Revolution, the bourgeois 
republic would have lasted many years. The workers, even the Anarchists, would 
have tolerated it.* 

The answer is, of course, that Jacobin Revolutions cannot be made to-day and 
that, even if they could, the respectable and cultured bourgeois who made up the 
Republican party were not the men to do it. Nor is there any reason to suppose that 
the Army would have tolerated it. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 247 

approximately 470. Yet one should note that this was done without 
modifying the system of taxation. This remained almost entirely 
indirect and the receipts from income-tax were negligible. 

The Government was proceeding quietly on its way, discussing the 
various laws complementary to the Constitution and impeaching, in 
the usual Spanish fashion, those responsible for the crime of the 
Dictatorship, when an event occurred which, though it was thought 
at first to be of little consequence, led in the end to a situation that 
brought down the Government. Casas Viejas is a wretched hamlet In 
a malarial district not far from Jerez : the land around it, belonging to 
the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who is the largest landowner in Spain, 
had been marked down for expropriation. The inhabitants, who be 
longed to the C.N.T., were miserably poor and ignorant, as are all the 
field labourers on these great latifundia. On 8 January 1933 a small 
rising led by militants of the F.A I. took place in Barcelona: a general 
strike in Andalusia had been planned to accompany it, but did not come 
off. However, an old Anarchist in Casas Viejas, known as Seisdedos, 
Six Fingers, had heard of these projects and, in one of those bursts of 
millenarian fervour that are so typical of Andalusia, decided that now 
the great moment had arrived, now comunismo libertario would in 
fallibly come in. Having inspired his friends and relatives with the 
same ardour, the whole party armed itself with sticks and shotguns 
and marched to the barracks of the Civil Guard close by to give them 
the good tidings and to tell them that now they could lay down their 
arms, for henceforth all men would be brothers and would till the 
fields of the rich in common. The Civil Guard did not respond to these 
appeals, shots were exchanged and after a solemn parade through the 
neighbouring village the men of Casas Viejas settled down to lay siege 
to the barracks. 

The Government was expecting a concerted Anarchist rising in 
Catalonia and Andalusia and was determined to suppress the first 
movements rapidly. It was not long therefore before troops and civil 
guards were on the move through the whole province. Aeroplanes 
flew overhead and Seisdedos and his thirty or so followers retired to 
their houses. Here a siege began, and, the unfortunate men having 
refused to surrender, their houses were set on fire and twenty-five, 
including Seisdedos, were killed. 

A wave of indignation swept over the country. Tragic events had 
often happened before in Andalusia, but this was the culmination of a 
long series of harsh acts on the part of the police. Had not the Re- 



248 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

public come in precisely to put an end to this kind of thing? The Right 
in particular, with peculiar hypocrisy, were loud in their protests at 
the crime committed against c poor innocent men'. The Government, 
which at first attempted to take the matter lightly, was in the end 
forced to appoint a committee of investigation. This committee 
brought to light three things first that the orders issued by the Home 
Secretary, Casares Quiroga, and by Azana himself had been unneces 
sarily severe, then that the Director- General of Police, Menendez, 
had interpreted these as permitting the application of the ley defugas 
(police custom of shooting prisoners when trying to escape') and 
finally that the police captain, Rojas, had acted with criminal bar 
barity in shooting a dozen prisoners in cold blood, for no reason at all. 
It was a prelude on a small scale to what would happen two years 
later at Oviedo. 

Casas Viejas produced a terrible effect on the working classes all 
over Spain and made the Socialists, who shared the responsibility for 
it, unpopular. The credit of the Government never recovered from 
this blow. The only thing left to be done was to choose the first 
favourable moment for holding elections and then to resign. Azana 
had announced that he would hold municipal elections on the new 
register (which included women) in April. When it came to the point, 
he drew back and ordered partial elections instead : some two thousand 
rural districts which in April 1931 had returned Monarchists and 
whose representation had in consequence been cancelled, were now to 
be allowed to nominate their municipal officers. If this were intended 
as a feeler to see how public opinion lay, it was a bad one. The result, 
by which the Government got just over a third of the nominations and 
the Right just under a third, proved nothing. Azana quite naturally 
refused to take the opinion of the burgos podridos or rotten boroughs, 
as he called them, as a signal for resignation, but he had let loose an 
outcry against him that continued to augment. There were Anarchist 
strikes in almost every town in Spain for the release of their prisoners. 
The university students also struck, as they had done before at the end 
of the Dictatorship, whilst Lerroux and his Radical party commenced 
a deliberate obstruction in the Cortes. 

Of the three Republican parties in the Constituent Cortes, two, the 
Radicals and the Socialists, were bitterly opposed to one another. The 
Left Republicans held the balance between them. When, after the 
completion of the Constitution, it became impossible for the three to 
sit together in the Government, Azana had to choose with which to 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 249 

ally himself. He chose the Socialists, feeling no doubt that it would be 
impossible to govern the country if the two great divisions of the 
working classes were both aligned against him. The Radicals then 
maintained a passive attitude, not opposing the passage of the com 
plementary laws but contesting any Socialist elements that had crept 
into them. For, as we have pointed out, the term Radical was a 
complete misnomer for their party: they were conservative Repub 
licans, representing what were known as the 'passive classes*, and the 
only positive elements in their programme were their anti-clericalism 
and the importance which they attached to education. Now that the 
tide had begun to turn they decided that the moment had come for 
putting an end to reforms and for holding immediate elections, which 
they hoped would return them in sufficient force to give them the 
leading voice in the government of the country. 

Two important measures remained, however, to be passed: the Law 
of Public Order, which was to replace the very unpopular and severe 
Law of the Defence of the Republic, and that authorizing the setting 
up of a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees, which was to take the 
place of a Second Chamber as a guarantee of the observance of the 
Constitution. The Radicals consented to withhold their obstruction in 
the Cortes until these were passed* This was done, and after some 
further hesitation and delay the Government resigned, September 

*933- 

We have so far confined our attention to the purely political actions 
of the Republican Government. But this is not sufficient to enable us 
to grasp the full complexity of the Spanish scene at this time. Whilst 
the wise men of the Cortes deliberated, a succession of strikes, boy 
cotts, acts of sabotage and armed revolts went on all over Spain 
without intermission. We shall best understand this if we begin by 
examining the part played in them by the Anarcho-Syndicalists. 

We have seen in a previous chapter that the Anarcho-Syndicalists 
took advantage of the comparative calm of the Dictatorship to re 
organize themselves. Fearing that Communist influence might obtain 
a hold in the C.N.T. and displace that of the Anarchists, they set up a 
secret association, the Federation Anarquista Iberica or F.A.I., whose 
members must also be members of the National Labour Confedera 
tion. The F.A.I, was intended not only as a nucleus of thinkers whose 
mission would be to keep the movement ideologically pure, but as a 
council of action for organizing revolutionary movements. It would 
provide a much needed unification. The fact that its members were 



250 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

also the leading members of the different federations of the C.N.T. 
gave it all the influence it needed. 1 

Its revolutionary energy made itself felt from the first moment of 
the inauguration of the Republic. During the next four years an 
endless succession of strikes, armed assaults on public buildings and 
acts of sabotage were launched against the Republic. No previous 
Spanish Government had had to sustain such a continuous assault. 
Had the Syndicalist theories and methods of 1919-1923 been still in 
evidence, the Republic could perhaps have come to terms with them. 
But Segui's influence was a thing of the past and against the F.A.I. 
there was nothing they could do but oppose violence to violence. 

The difference can best be seen by contrasting the old militants of 
the movement with the new. Segui and Pestafia were essentially 
trade-union leaders, though the unions they led were extremely 
militant and had ultimate revolutionary ends. Their influence was 
exercised mainly at the meetings of the local and national federations. 
Their particular skill lay in propaganda and in syndical organization, 
and their aim was to build up powerful working-class federations and 
then, by carefully prepared strikes, to confront and defeat the em 
ployers* associations. In this way they hoped to make themselves the 
dominant partners in industry, in readiness for the day when they 
could take over its management altogether. The leaders of the F.A.I., 
on the other hand, belonged to the type of revolutionary who comes to 
the front after a period of street fighting followed by police suppres 
sion. They were men who had proved their worth in pistol encounters 
at street corners and in hazardous coups of various kinds. Durruti and 
Ascaso, for example, were fanatics of the cause who by their feats of 
incredible daring had made themselves the heroes of the Catalan 
proletariat. Durruti was a powerful man with brown eyes and an 
innocent expression and Ascaso a little dark man of insignificant 
appearance. Inseparable friends, they had together robbed banks, 
assassinated enemies of the cause and been in the forefront of in- 

1 One of the principles of the F.A.L was that it should not interfere in purely 
syndical matters. However, one may say that no important decision of the C.N.T. 
was ever taken except by its influence. Yet there was no official connection between 
the two bodies. The only committees on which the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. colla 
borated were the Comite" de Defensa, which organized armed risings and the 
Comite por Presos (Prisoners* Committee) which liquidated their results. The real 
connection consisted in the fact that nearly all the leaders of the C.N.T. were also 
members of the F.A.L This sometimes produced odd results, as when a certain 
companero voted for a rising as a free member of the F.A.I. and against it as a 
representative of a federation of the C.N.T. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 2$l 

numerable strikes and acts of violence. Most of their lives had been 
spent in prison: as soon as they came out they returned to their 
humble work in the factory, for, naturally, none of the money they 
acquired by their forcible expropriations (on one occasion they opened 
and emptied a safe in the Bank of Spain) was kept for themselves. 
They were two saints of the Anarchist cause, showing the way by 
their merits and their example. Garcia Oliver, on the other hand, 
belonged rather to the type of Irish revolutionary of 1919. Though a 
workman by origin and only partly educated, his political instincts 
were well developed. He was credited with a special flair for the 
revolutionary feeling of the masses and for the right moment for 
action. He thus became the leading tactician of this period and the 
organizer of its various revolutionary strikes and insurrections. Only, 
being an Anarchist, he did not remain like a general in the background, 
but led his men with bomb and revolver in his hand himself. 

One peculiarity of Spanish Anarchism, which becomes increasingly 
noticeable from now on, was the inclusion within its ranks of pro 
fessional criminals thieves and gunmen who certainly would not have 
been accepted by any other working-class party together with idealists 
of the purest and most selfless kind. Occasionally, as we have already 
pointed out, the two elements were combined in the same person, but 
more often they were separate. One may explain this historically. The 
bandit has always been a popular figure in Spain because he preys on 
the rich and defends the poor. Then during the Napoleonic Wars the 
guerrilla leader and the bandit fused in the same person. This tradi 
tion was continued by the Carlists. Their famous guerrilla leaders, 
Cabrera, Father Merino, Father Santa Cruz and Cucala, belonged to 
the same type of men as Durruti and Ascaso. But the Anarchists were 
also lax in allowing ordinary thieves and murderers to join their 
organization. The first sign of this was seen during the Cantonalist 
rising of 1873, when the convict prison of Cartagena, containing 1500 
of the most desperate criminals in Spain, was opened on the insistence 
of the Internationalists and the inmates were invited to join in the 
defence of the city. Then, during the troubles of 1919-1923 at Bar 
celona, dozens of pure pistoleros entered their ranks. No doubt most of 
them took care to put a certain ideological colour on their actions, but 
this would not have been sufficient if the Anarchists had not had a 
sentimental feeling for all those people who have taken to criminal 
ways because they have been thwarted or injured by society. A 
typically Spanish inability to distinguish between those who have 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

enriched themselves by i lawful' means and those who attempt to do 
so by pure robbery and violence lies at the bottom of this. It is a 
mentality that goes with certain political and social conditions one 
finds it, for example, in the New Testament. 

However, the inclusion of so many men of criminal instincts could 
not fail to have a demoralizing effect upon the Anarchist organizations. 
It was increased by the fact that the F.A.I, was a secret society. Such 
societies usually end by conforming to one of two types either, like 
the ancient Assassins, they develop a blind obedience to a central 
authority (Bakunin had dabbled with this idea), or they split up into 
groups. This last was the real organization of the RAJ. Behind the 
official committees stood small groups of like-thinking people which 
pulled the strings, and sometimes behind these were terrorist groups 
that, at certain moments, controlled the larger ones. This, at all 
events, was what happened when the Civil War broke out, and if one 
bears this in mind many of the inconsistencies between Anarchist 
practice and doctrine will become intelligible. This complex and 
shifting group organization explains, too, why a simple history of 
Spanish Anarchism is impossible. 

A congress of the C.N.T. met in Madrid in June 193 1 to settle various 
matters connected with the reorganization of the Confederation. 1 
Hardly was it over or the new Cortes taken its seat when there was a 
strike of the telephone operatives at Madrid combined with an armed 
assault on the Central Telephone building. The assault failed and the 
C.N.T. operatives, on the threat of being expelled, enrolled in the 
U.G.T. A week later a strike in Seville led to a clash with the troops, 
in which thirty were killed and three hundred wounded. The Govern 
ment showed that they had no hesitation in employing all the means 
that they had so much condemned when practised by the reactionary 
governments of the past. But it is in Catalonia that the Anarcho- 
Syndicalist action during these years was most characteristic. The 
Esquerra or Left Catalan party had replaced Madrid as the effective 
rulers of the province. Luis Companys, a lawyer who for many years 
had been on close terms with the Anarchists, had been elected alcalde 
of Barcelona at the April elections and was afterwards appointed Civil 
Governor. In this position he used the greatest possible tact in dealing 
with his old friends. 'Since you', he said to them, 'are not ready to 
make your revolution, why not let us make ours and use the liberty the 
new regime gives you for your propaganda?' When the C.N.T. 
1 See Note E on p. 263 at end of chapter. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 253 

announced a twenty-four hours' general strike, he declared the day a 
national holiday. The F.A.L, however, had no intention of being 
diverted from their revolutionary projects in this manner. All that 
summer their influence in the C.N.T. was increasing, and in October 
they were able to force the resignation of the editor, Juan Peiro, and 
of the whole staff of the famous Anarcho-Syndicalist daily, SoK- 
daridad Obrera, because they refused to support the F.AJ. policy of 
revolutionary action by small groups. 1 

That summer saw therefore an interminable series of strikes with 
sabotage, violence and clashes with the police. Strange requests were 
made to the Civil Governor that he should disarm the police and 
arm the people instead : impossible demands were made on employers. 
In short everything was done to alarm the authorities, discredit the 
regime and produce a revolutionary tempo. 2 A new technique was the 
guerrilla tactics employed against the police. They were sniped on 
from windows and corners, forced to mobilize at this point and that 
and kept in such a constant state of alarm that they could not get 
sufficient sleep. This made their nerves jumpy and their tempers bad 
and when militants were caught they were made to suffer for it. The 
Anarchists then complained bitterly that the Republican Govern 
ment was more tyrannous than that of Primo de Rivera. They 
conveniently forgot that during his dictatorship the C.N.T. had 
been dissolved, the Anarchist press suppressed, and that in all these 
five years not a single Anarchist had dared to make himself seen or 
heard. 

But one must remember that during the whole of this time the 
working classes were suffering very real hardships. The slump had 
brought terrible unemployment. In Barcelona only 30 per cent of the 
workmen of the builders' union were fully employed. Of 45,000 at 
work in 1930, only 11,000 were at work in I933. 3 And certainly the 
slump alone was not to blame for this. All over Spain banks had 
combined to restrict credit and employers to lock up their capital in 
the hopes of making the Republic unpopular. According to the 
Anuario de Estadistica the capital issue fell from 2000 millions of 

1 See Note F on p. 263 at end of chapter. 

2 For example, the demands made on the Millowners* Federation were that they 
should choose all their workmen through the Bolsas de Trabajo or labour exchange 
of the C.N.T., abandon piece-work, give pensions at fifty to all workmen, grant 
unemployment and sickness insurance and paid holidays and work only a six-hour 
day. Their manifesto, containing an expos< of their political ideals, is quoted in full 
by F. Madrid, op. cit. pp. 191-195. 

8 See Service de Presse de ALT., No. 162, 15 September 1935. 



254 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

pesetas in 1928 to 50 millions in 1933. At the same time the cost of 
living rose. In Spain, it must be remembered, unemployment means 
semi-starvation because there are no unemployment benefits. Yet 
Professor Allison Peers has seen fit to reproach the Republican 
Government for tolerating an increase of mendicity due, he explains, 
to 'the growth of indiscipline'. 

The first days of 1932 saw a rising organized by the F.A.I, in 
Catalonia in which the newly formed Izquierda Comunista or Left 
Communist party also took part. This was a group of 'Trotskyists* 
led by Maurin, Nin and Andrade which had just seceded from the 
official Communist party, taking nearly all the Catalan Communists 
with them. Comunismo Libertario was proclaimed by the F.A.I, in the 
Upper Llobregat valley, the public buildings at Manresa and Berga 
were seized and in one or two places estates were divided up. Troops 
easily suppressed this rising, but not till there had been a certain 
amount of bloodshed. The Government thereupon arrested a hundred 
and twenty of the more prominent leaders of the C.N.T. and F.A.I., 
among them Durruti and Ascaso, and deported them without trial 
to Spanish Guinea, But the violent agitation, coupled with threats, 
that followed compelled it to release them soon afterwards. 

A year later (January 1933) came a second armed rising in Bar 
celona, Lerida and Valencia, led by Garcia Oliver. Its object was to 
secure the release of the prisoners deported to Africa and still detained 
there ; like the previous one it took the form of an attempt by a hand 
ful of militants to seize public buildings, but it was an even greater 
fiasco than the first and merely led to fresh arrests and to the con 
fiscation of the few arms that had been collected. 1 The Government 
declared the C.N.T. to be an illegal organization and closed its 
offices, but it was not strong enough to enforce this. Indeed, three 
months later the C.N.T. in Barcelona launched a formidable strike in 
the building trade which lasted eighteen weeks, whilst sympathetic 
general strikes took place at Saragossa, Coranna, Oviedo and Seville. 2 

1 The Anarchists taken in tins rising were severely beaten up at the Jefatura 
Superior de Policfa. See F. Urales, LaBarbarie Gubernamental en Barcelona, 1933, in 
which Garcia Oliver and other arrested Anarchists describe their personal ex 
periences. These police, moreover, belonged to the Guardia de Asalto, a corps 
formed by the Republican Government and composed of convinced Republicans 
and Socialists. I have been told by a member of this police force who was certainly a 
humane and decent man, that the guerrilla warfare that the Anarchists waged on them 
during strikes and the lack of sleep they suffered from so wore down their nerves 
that the desire to wreak violent reprisals on the prisoners became irresistible. 

2 See Note G on p. 263 ai end of chapter. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 255 

These unsuccessful risings had, however, been sufficiently un 
popular to lead to a split in the C.N.T. The policy of the F.A.I. had 
always had its opponents. Already at the Congress of Saragossa in 
1922 two divergent tendencies had shown themselvesthat of the 
' pure * Anarchists who believed that a revolution could best be brought 
about by the action of small enthusiastic groups and that of the 
majority who put their faith in the building up of powerful syndicates 
in a libertarian ambience. The brutal repression of Martinez Anido 
followed by the Dictatorship secured the triumph of the more violent 
party. But disapproval of the 'tyrannical' leadership of the F.AJ. 
persisted. We have already seen how, only a few months after the 
entry of the Republic, Juan Peiro and the whole staff of Solidaridad 
Obrera, which represented the views of the 'syndicalist 5 group, were 
forced to resign. This was followed soon after by the expulsion of 
Angel Pestana, the secretary of the C.N.T., from the metal workers' 
syndicate at Barcelona for having vented his disapproval of the insur 
rection in the Llobregat Valley. A number of well-known Anarchists, 
among them Peiro and Juan Lopez, supported him and published 
their disapproval of the policy of the F.AJ. in a document which, 
because it had thirty signatures, was known as the Trentistas* pro 
clamation. The consequence of this was that they too were expelled 
from the C.N.T. and, as the syndicates which they represented fol 
lowed them, there came about a split in the Confederation. The 
dissident syndicates, which comprised those of Tarassa and Sabadell 
in Catalonia, half of those in Valencia and one in Asturias, were known 
as the sindicatos de oposicion. Pestaiia himself soon after went com 
pletely reformist and founded a Syndicalist party which sent one 
deputy to the Cortes of 1936. None of the other Trentistas followed 
him, but the split continued, mainly on personal grounds and with 
bitter feelings on both sides till it was healed at the Congress of 
Saragossa just before the Civil War broke out. 1 

One gets, however, an incomplete idea of the strength of the 
working-class resistance to the Republic by dwelling solely on the 
revolutionary attitude of the town proletariat. During the whole of 
193 1 and 1932 the country districts of South and South-Central Spain 
were in a state of effervescence. As in 1919-1923, the Anarchists made 
the pace, though thanks to the Socialist participation in the Govern 
ment, the U.G.T. now spread to many districts that had not known it 
before. By 1934 there were few villages of any size in this half of 

1 See Note H on p. 264. at end of chapter. 



256 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

Spain that did not have their sindicato or casa del pueblo. The increase 
of unemployment and the expectation of sweeping agrarian reforms 
increased the tension and, though strikes were less frequent than in 
1921, the class hatred was stronger and gave rise to a certain amount of 
intimidation. Still acts of violence were rare; when from time to time 
there were clashes with the police they usually occurred because the 
peasants were prevented from holding meetings or from ploughing up 
uncultivated land belonging to the large estates. 1 The most tragic of 
these episodes was that already described at Casas Viejas. Another, 
in which four Civil Guards were killed in a riot and their bodies 
hacked to pieces, occurred in an isolated pueblo of Extremadura called 
Castilblanco. As it throws a certain light upon the social conditions 
in the campo at this time I will describe it. 

The villagers of Castilblanco, a small poverty-stricken pueblo of the 
Sierra de Guadalupe, in the gorge of the Guadiana, were not affi 
liated to any syndical organization. They were still too isolated for the 
new ideas of working-class solidarity to have reached them. But a 
strike of campesinos of the U.G.T. was going on at Badajoz and in the 
corn-growing villages around, and the whole province was in a state of 
agitation because sowing time was approaching and the discussion of 
the project of agrarian reform had not yet begun. 

Castilblanco, among its rocks and ilex woods, lived on the edge of 
this struggle : the hill villages are always the last to be drawn in and the 
agents of the landowners (this is a district of large feudal estates) had 
been successful in keeping the Casa del Pueblo out. But the villagers 

1 One of the places where there was the greatest tension at this time was Granada. 
Here the landowners of the rich Irrigated vega were numerous and strong because 
the rent of a hundred or so acres sufficed to keep a middle-class family in idleness and 
comparative affluence. The campesinos too were fairly prosperous and were strongly 
organized in the U.G.T., but there was considerable unemployment. The tension 
showed itself in a riot from time to time and in petards that exploded, noisily but 
harmlessly, every night. Cars were sometimes stopped and their owners forced to 
'make a contribution 5 to the fund for the unemployed, and unpopular landlords 
kept to the main streets after dark. At Seville, where the C.N.T. predominated, the 
tension was more intermittent. Motoring through a village near Osuna in the spring 
of 1933, 1 asked a woman at the petrol station how the Easter festivities had gone off. 
' Very well indeed ', she answered. * Whilst the procession was going its round the 
Anarchists broke into the church and set fire to it. Habfa mucha animaci6n.' But 
apart from such incidents middle-class life, even in small villages, proceeded 
normally, Spaniards have had for centuries to put up with so many disorders and 
scenes of violence that they have grown resigned to them. Only the groups of unem 
ployed labourers standing silently and ominously in the squares and street corners 
and the processions of peasants carrying the red flags of the Socialists or the red and 
black flags of the Anarcho-Syndicalists showed the casual observer that anything 
unusual was happening. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 257 

had their grievances and, in imitation of the pueblos lower down the 
valley, decided that they would have their strike too. After downing 
tools they announced a general meeting in the village square. 

The four Civil Guards of the place received orders to prevent this. 
But on their attempting to do so by force, an unexpected thing 
happened. In one of those paroxysms of rage not uncommon among 
primitive people, the crowd beat them down and killed them and 
followed this up with a fierce scene of exultation in which the women 
of the village danced round their mutilated bodies. This happened on 
i January 1932, and a few days later a court of enquiry was held to 
decide who was guilty. But no evidence incriminating any individual 
could be obtained. It had been a collective deed. One was reminded 
of the story of Fuenteovejuna, a village a few miles off among the 
Sierra Morena, around which Lope de Vega wrote a famous play. The 
villagers had killed their local cacique and tyrant, but when asked 
under torture who had been their leaders, refused to say. However 
insistently the judges interrogated them, the only answer they could 
get to their question 'Who killed the Comendador?' was 'Fuente 
ovejuna'. 

The object of the Socialist party in organizing strikes and mass 
meetings in the country districts was evident: they wished to bring 
the greatest possible pressure to bear on the Republican parties to 
grant a wide measure of agrarian reform. For the first time in their 
history they had grasped the importance of the campo. The object of 
the Anarcho-Syndicalists, on the other hand, was revolutionary. The 
F.A.L saw in the increase of liberty given by the Republic a con 
venient weakening in the power of the Government which would 
enable them, at some not very distant date, to bring it down. Their 
tactics of armed putsches, acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare with 
the police were intended both to make the work of the Government as 
difficult as possible and to rouse the whole of the working classes to 
the necessity for revolution. They were aided in this by the distressing 
unemployment (which it was the object of their strikes for a six-hour 
day to cure) as well as by certain just and intelligible grievances. 

The Governments of the first Cortes of the Republic went out of 
their way to display their harshness and asperity. Azana, the leading 
spirit of the various combinations, was determined that this Republic 
should not fail from the same causes that had brought down the last. 
He would defend it vigorously against its enemies, whether they came 
from the Right or from the Left: it must never be said that he could 



258 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

not keep order. The burning of churches and convents all over Spain 
on 1 1 and iz May was a warning and the Government acted on it by 
enrolling a new body of police, the Guardia de Asalto or Assault 
Guards, which only men of known Republican sympathies could join. 
This was followed in October, when Azana became head of the 
Government, by the Law for the Defence of the Republic, which gave 
the Home Secretary wide and drastic powers. By means of this law 
the heavy hand of the Republic was felt alternately by the Monarchists 
and the Anarchists. 1 

Of all the restrictions on liberty, that imposing a censorship on the 
press was the most criticized. The Monarchists, who had themselves 
practised a far more severe censorship in the past, were especially 
outraged when, after General Sanjurjo's rising, their paper the A. B.C. 
was suspended for four months. 2 The Anarcho- Syndicalists suffered 
more than they need have done because they refused to conform to the 
regulation which required that they should submit their articles to the 
censor before publication: this frequently led to whole issues being 
confiscated. But undoubtedly the strongest objection which they had 
to the Republic concerned its new labour legislation. 

The Minister of Labour, Largo Caballero, had introduced a series 
of laws regulating the rights of the working classes in their dealings 
with capital. The most important of these, the law of 24 December 
1931, laid down the conditions which all contracts between workers 
and employers must fulfil in order to be valid. A special tribunal was 
set up to decide alleged infractions. Another law, the Ley de Jurados 
Mixtos, established tribunals at which labour disputes were to be 
compulsorily settled: this was a principle which had been adopted by 
the First Republic on the recommendation of Pi y Margall and had 
been taken up again by Primo de Rivera. But the powers of these 
tribunals were now extended to allow them to supervise the working of 
all labour contracts. Another law required eight days notice to be 
given of every strike. Apart from the fact that these laws ran contrary 
to the Anarcho-Syndicalist principles of negotiating directly with the 

1 The speech in which Azana introduced this bill is typical of the intense personal 
pride he took in the good repute of the Republic: ' Never, * he declared, 'while in my 
hands, shall authority be weakened ! Never, while in my hands, shall the Govern 
ment of my country be the object of contempt, scorn and reviling I Never in this 
ministry shall there be hesitancy in the service of the commonwealth ! The Republic 
belongs to us all. Woe to the man who dares to lift his hand against it ! ' (El Sol, 1 5 
October 1931). This law, intended as a temporary measure only, was repealed in 
July 1933 and its place taken by the more liberal Law of Public Order. 

2 See Note I on p. 264 at end of chapter. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 259 

employers and interfered with the practice of lightning strikes, it was 
clear that they represented an immense increase in the power of the 
State in industrial matters. A whole army of Government officials, 
mostly Socialists, made their appearance to enforce the new laws and 
saw to it that, whenever possible, they should be used to extend the 
influence of the U.G.T. at the expense of the C.N.T. This had of 
course been the intention of those who drew them up. In fact the 
U.G.T. was rapidly becoming an organ of the State itself and was 
using its new powers to reduce its rival. The Anarcho-Syndicalists 
could have no illusions as to what would happen to them if a purely 
Socialist Government should come into power. To that they almost 
preferred a military dictatorship, which would force their organiza 
tions to disband, but could not destroy them. 

The last Government of the Constituent Cortes resigned in Sep 
tember 1933 in deep unpopularity. The prisons were full there were 
said to be 9000 of the C.N.T. alone in them. The country was packed 
with armed police half as many again as in Primo de Rivera's time. 
The unemployment was as great as ever. Capital was lying idle in the 
banks and strikes and labour disputes were incessant. It was not only 
the extreme Right and Left which protested: itwas a man of the Centre, 
Martinez Barrio, one little given to rhetorical exaggerations, who 
declared that this was a Republic of mud, blood and tears. How 
different from the First Republic which, chaotic and farcical though it 
had been, had been described by one of its leading men as the 
Republic of wit and poetry ! 

What was the cause of the failure? Briefly that the Republic had 
alienated large sections of the middle classes without giving satis 
faction to the peasants and factory workers. Had it, as Lerroux 
desired, contented itself with being a continuation, in a somewhat 
more enlightened form, of the Monarchy, it would have drawn all the 
middle classes round it. But it would then have united all the working 
classes against it and, since their claims could no longer be denied, a 
revolutionary situation would have developed. If, on the other hand, 
it had gone deeper, throwing open all the large estates to the peasants 
and to the political organizations that controlled them, it would have 
risked initiating a social revolution and being carried out of its depth. 
The Army would then have intervened c to restore order*. It chose 
therefore a middle course which in Spain, one must remember, is 
always the line of greatest resistance. Yet perhaps if the world 



260 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

economic crisis had not descended on it with full force at the most 
critical moment it might have been successful. 1 

Fate then was against it. Yet before one accepts this easy view it is 
worth taking a look at Spanish history. This was not the first time that 
' enlightened' opinion, supported by a section of the middle classes, 
had endeavoured to impose its will upon that great conservative or 
negatively revolutionary mass the Spanish people. It had happened 
in 1530-1540 with the Erasmists : more vaguely in the early seventeenth 
century with the 'collectivism economists: in the second half of the 
eighteenth century with the reformers of Charles Ill's administration. 
In the nineteenth century the Liberal Revolution had broken out in 
three great spasms 1812, 1820 and 1837. Again, the years 1854-1856 
and 1868-1873 had seen an eruption of the radical lower-middle 
classes. Yet all these movements had been abortive and had been 
followed by an intensification of reaction. The failure had been the 
same whether the masses had been composed of one solid Conserva 
tive block or had been divided into two antagonistic wings. 

These abortive revolutions, these periodic turnings over of a new 
leaf that succeed for a year or two and then fail, are therefore peculiar 
to Spain. Or rather are typical of a country where, owing to the 
backward state of economy, the only people who can lead a movement 
of regeneration belong to an advanced section of the middle classes 
who are not themselves sufficiently strong to impose their will. They 
can therefore only remain in power by the consent of the working 
classes, whose real wishes and needs they do not understand. For 
these working classes, from the moment in which they deserted the 
cause of the feudal aristocracy, entered at once a revolutionary Socia 
list ambience without passing through the intermediate 'liberal' stage. 
The reason for this is evident. Political progress is the result of deep- 
felt and expanding economic activity which continually draws new 

1 * The Republic *, said the Anarchist writer Juan Peiro, * came in without blood : 
therefore it was not a true revolution. It always lived insecurely as a result.* 

Maurfn made the same criticism. Certainly the fact that the old ruling classes had 
not been defeated, but had merely made a strategic retreat, was the shadow that hung 
over the Republic. Yet one may doubt whether a * revolution with blood ' would have 
led to anything except the victory of reaction. Companys held an intermediate 
opinion. 'The Republicans never realized whilst they were in power the indis 
pensable and transforming work which the people expected of them.* 

If by this he meant, as is probable, their failure to achieve a substantial measure of 
agrarian reform, everyone will agree with him. The first need of the Republic was to 
strengthen itself against the inevitable reaction by winning fresh supporters. Yet 
the difficulty of this reform in view of the geographic conditions, the economic crisis 
and the complex political situation should not be forgotten. 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 261 

classes up towards the surface. So long as this activity exists each 
class seeks to obtain the privileges of the one above it and parliamen 
tary government, which is the political mechanism by which these 
desires seek realization, becomes possible. But inertia and stagna 
tion have been precisely the conditions of Spanish economy for 
many hundreds of years since Ferdinand Ill's Crusaders destroyed 
the foundations of Andalusian prosperity and the mines of Cuzco 
preached the lesson that the wealth of nations consists not in industry 
but in silver and gold. Castile, which made Spain a united country, 
infected her with a Byzantine horror of time and change and of every 
instinct by which modem nations grow. The result has been a rigid 
stratification of social life which does not correspond either to the 
proud and independent character of Spaniards or to the conditions of 
modern Europe. 

In the present case the irony of the position in which the Repub 
lican parties found themselves could not be more plain. These able, 
cultured and disinterested men who came forward to build a new 
constitution for their country were building in sand. Their avowed 
aim was to put an end for ever to the violence, injustice and corrup 
tion which had governed Spanish history during the last hundred and 
fifty years. With skill and foresight they prepared a document that was 
to be the charter of Spanish rights and liberties for generations to 
come. Its clauses were adopted from the most modern and best 
tested inventions of constitutional history and jurisprudence. They 
were expressed in high-sounding yet succinct language. Safeguards 
were provided against special contingencies, watertight guarantees 
were devised against violation. Everything that could be thought of 
was thought of except that the people for whom it was designed 
might not want it. And so it turned out for after a short trial neither 
the Church nor the Army nor the landowners nor the peasants nor 
the factory workers would have anything to do with it. To them, they 
said, it did not offer liberty but tyranny Spain having so developed 
that one man's liberty necessarily implied his tyranny over another. 
The makers of this Constitution might well have pondered the words 
of a former President, Emilio Castelar, who had declared that he was 
ready to proclaim a republic f as soon as Spaniards shall have agreed 
on the grounds that divide them least' though this perhaps would 
have meant the postponement of that proclamation for ever. 

The Spanish Republic can be compared to the League of Nations. 
It was an attempt to found a regime of law and justice and compara- 



262 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

live decency in a situation where hitherto only injustice and violence 
had prevailed. But, like the League, it was also quite unavoidably 
founded upon certain misappropriations and acts of violence. It had 
all the faults, all the inevitable make-believes and hypocrisies of new 
attempts to lay down by one party what shall be done by all parties in 
the future. It was obliged to simulate a prestige which it lacked, a 
prestige which only time and long custom could give and which no 
Spanish Government since the eighteenth century has ever possessed. 
And so one may say that no one, except its founders, ever showed the 
least respect for it, that none of the Right-wing parties had the least 
intention of obeying it, and that oaths of allegiance to it were taken by 
soldiers and politicians with the secret reservation that they would 
break them on the first moment that it suited their convenience. As 
to the working-class parties, though for a time one of them supported 
it, that was only because it regarded it as a temporary stepping-stone 
on its own march to power. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER XI 

A (p. 237). Salvador de Madariaga, an impartial witness, since he disapproved of 
Article 26, thus contrasts State and Church education : ' State education in Spain is 

not lay in the French sense of the word : it is religious, orthodox and Catholic 

The Church educates with a tendency , and gives all its teachings a profound bias and 
an intolerant turn. Hence the persistence of a rift in the nation, a state of mutual 
intolerance born of the intolerance of the Church, since one cannot be tolerant 
towards intolerance/ (Spain, 1930, p. 229.) He adds that clerical education (which 
in elementary schools was invariably given by nuns) was bad by any standard. And 
one must remember that these Church schools were maintained not by the faithful, 
but by subsidies from the Ministry of Education. 

On the other hand the action of the Government was unnecessarily drastic and 
tended to defeat its own ends. As Don Jose* Castillejo has pointed out, most of the 
teaching orders had entered the country extra-legally and their schools co'uld be closed 
down simply by applying the law. So too the suppression of the Jesuit Order merely 
turned it into a secret society and enabled it to continue teaching as before. 
The cancellation of the annual State grant to the Church was moreover an act of 
manifest injustice, since this grant represented the interest on the property of the 
Church which the State had sold. It was intended to be applied only to the support 
of the clergy and to the maintenance of public worship. But Spanish love of clear- 
cut solutions, Spanish intoxication in the moment of fancied victory triumphed over 
wiser counsels, and the enemies of the Republic were given the opportunity to 
proclaim themselves the defenders of the Faith. 

B (p. 238). The anti-clerical articles in the Constitution were supplemented by the 
Law of Religious Confessions and Congregations, which defined the general in 
tentions expressed by them more precisely. This was passed by the Cortes in May 
1933 and signed by the President after a long struggle with his conscience. It was 
allowed to lapse a few months afterwards, on the fall of the Government. The Jesuit 
Order had been dissolved by decree in the previous January. 

C (p- 238). Statement by the Minister for Education, Marcelino Domingo, quoted 
by A. Mendizabal in The Martyrdom of Spain. The position of education in Spain is 



THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 263 

discussed in various special articles in The Times, one by Don Jose* Castillejo on 10 
August 1926 and others by an unnamed correspondent on 6 June 1931 and 6 June 
1933. Professor Allison Peers gives a good general account in The Spanish Tragedy of 
the reforms effected and not effected by the Republic. The catastrophic conse 
quences to secondary education of the inhibition of the religious orders from 
teaching have been described in Anarqula y Jerarquia, by Sr. Madariaga. One good 
thing the Republic certainly did it raised the salaries of the schoolmasters and 
university professors. Up to this time the salary of an elementary school teacher had 
lain between 2000 and 2500 pesetas at the current rate 60 or 70 a year. Even 
university professors often earned no more than 5000 pesetas. 

D (p. 244). The credit allotted to the Institute of Agrarian Reform was 50,000,000 
pesetas a year. This only allowed the settlement of, at most, 5000 families annually. 
In fact only a fraction of these had been settled before the fall of the Government, 
The attitude of the Republicans is well shown in an interview which a French 
Socialist, M. Picard-Moch, had with Azana in October 1932 that is when he was at 
the height of his power. 

* Et la relorme agraire? En attendez-vous vdritablement des re"sultats? 

* Progressivement. Car le rhythme de son application va d^pendre de Fe*tat des 
finances. Mais n'oubliez pas que c'est chez nous un vieux probleme: il n'y a qu'une 
chose de changee, c'est la resignation des ouvriers de campagnes, qui n'attendaient 
rien de la monarchic et qui attendent tout de la Re*publique/ (UEspagne Repub- 
licaine, G. and J. Picard-Moch, p. 49.) 

Well might Largo Caballero call this law * an aspirin to cure an appendicitis ' ! 

E (p. 252). A measure for the setting up offederadones de industria was approved by 
this Congress by 302,343 votes to 90,671. This measure, which was advocated by 
among others Valeriano Orob6n Fernandez, a young Anarchist intellectual who had 
been secretary of the A.I.T., set up vertical industrial federations in addition to the 
local federations known as sindicatos unicos. The opponents of this measure, among 
whom was Garcia Oliver, objected that it would increase the centralization of the 
C.N.T. Its adherents denied this and claimed that some such a system would be 
necessary for organizing libertarian production after the Revolution. Such was the 
confidence in approaching victory! 

F (p. 253). Peiro's view, put forward in an Anarchist manifesto in September 1 931, 
was that a revolution could not come from a small prepared minority and that such 
putsches, if they succeeded, must inevitably lead to dictatorships. The Revolution 
his party desired could only come from a movement sprung from the deep desires of the 
whole body of workers. The C.N.T. was just such a movement and it should therefore 
build up its forces and hold itself ready. The text of this manifesto is quoted in full 
by F. Madrid in Ocho Meses y un Dia en el Gobierno Civil de Barcelona, pp. 215-218. 

It will be remembered that Solidaridad Obrera had originally been founded with 
the object of introducing French Syndicalist methods and so counteracting the 
tendency that since 1887 had existed in Spanish Anarchism to split up into small 
groups of^ action, without sufficient syndical backing. The view of the F.AJ. was 
that these putsches would have the effect of rousing the revolutionary temper of the 
workers and that, if this were achieved, their immediate failure would not matter. 
4 This, of course, was orthodox Bakuninism. 

G (p. 254). The most obstinate and heroic strike in the annals of the Spanish 
working classes was that at the steel foundry of La Felguera near Gij6n in Asturias 
during the spring and summer of 1933. 2800 workmen of the C.N.T., the entire 
population of the place, struck to prevent the dismissal without pensions of some old 
workmen. The employers refused to treat, so the strikers replied with sabotage. The 
children were sent away to other towns and the workers tightened their belts. For 
nine months they held out nine months of semi-starvation, but which cost the 



264 THE CONSTITUENT CORTES 

equally obstinate employers millions of pesetas and won their case. In no other 
country but Spain could such a strike occur, and even here only in the C.N'T. where 
what one might call the pundonor of the workers was much more powerful than any 
material considerations. 

One should note that the motive of nearly all C.N.T. strikes at this time was soli 
darity that is to say, they struck for the release of prisoners or against dismissals. 
Such strikes were not engineered by the F.A.I., but were perfectly spontaneous 
manifestations of the feeling of the syndicates. 

H (p. 255). The Russian anarchist Schapiro, who was sent to Spain by the 
A.I.T. in 1933 to report on this matter, declared that whereas the Trentistas were 
reformists, the F.A.I, 'sought in an individualist pseudo-collectivist exaltation a 
solution of the deadlock in which it found itself 1 . The Trentistas contained the older 
leaders, whereas the F.A.I, was a youth movement. The quarrel had begun in the 
Comites de Defensa and por Presos of the C.N.T. and was carried on with great 
bitterness, the Fai-istas speaking of their opponents as bomberos (i.e. pompiers'), 
enchufistas, atracadores and so on. The main object of the Trentistas was to prevent 
the F.A.I. from dominating the C.N.T., and in this they failed. 

His comment on the general situation in Spain is as follows: 'L'Espagne est 
aujourd'hui, indubitablement, le foyer de la revolution. Un foyer qui ne s'e*teint 
pas. Seulement il est ma! entretenu. Le feu est irregulier et brule mal. La chaleur 
utile e"mise est loin d'etre proportionnelle a la quantite de charbon employee. Si 
Tesprit de la revolution inevitable regne en maitre dans TEspagne proletarienne et 
paysanne, on ne peut pas en dire de meme de Fesprit d'organization de cette 
revolution. L'instinct de la spontaneite r&uolutionnaire continue encore a primer toutes 
autres considerations chez les militants. Uidee que V action revolutionnaire destructive 
contient en elle-meme les germes de Vactivite revolutionnaire reconstructive est encore 
profondement enracinee chez nos camarades et est un obstacle constant d V inoculation du 
virus organisateur dans Vactivite de la CJV.2V In other words the Anarchist move 
ment in Spain was intensely Spanish. 

As to constructive work, the Anarchists did not, it is true, make any experiments in 
collectivization before the Civil War, nor even, I believe, draw up any plans on the 
subject. But they did set up schools, some of which were very interesting. Those 
organized by the stone cutters' syndicates at Hospitalitet, a suburb of Barcelona, 
were of the type familiarized in this country by Bertrand Russell. 

I (p. 258). It must be said that little was done to make the Republic acceptable to 
Monarchists. From the first moment they were exposed to all kinds of petty irrita 
tions. Not only were titles of nobility abolished, but postmen were instructed not to 
deliver letters so addressed. There was a purge of the Civil Service for 'incompati 
bility with the regime*. The King was arraigned for high treason. The names of 
streets were changed. Summer time was abolished because the Dictatorship had in 
troduced it : when the Catalans refused to agree to this, there were two times in Spain. 

But so it has always been in Spain. For a hundred and twenty years the first act of 
every new regime has been to harass the outgoing party and to undo its legislation. 
From the fourteenth century on new municipalities have monotonously started off 
by prosecuting their predecessors. For centuries it has been so much the accepted 
thing that every administration will rob and oppress all who are not its particular 
supporters that those who come into office are expected to begin by revenging 
themselves. In the American colonies the official institution of the Audiencias gave 
a legal sanction to this practice. 

Indeed, one may say that justice in Spain has never aimed at more than that each 
party should take its turn at oppressing the others. Judged by these standards, the 
behaviour of the Republicans was moderate. The Dictatorship had been much more 
vindictive. But both made the same mistake of exasperating their enemies without 
disarming them. 



Chapter XII 
THE BIENIO NEGRO 

Cuando en un pueblo se cierran las puertas de la justicia, 
se abren las de la Revolution. SAGASTA. 

The elections held in November 1933 ended in a smashing defeat for 
the parties of the Left, The Left Republicans were almost annihi 
lated. Of the 120 deputies that had sat in the previous Cortes, they 
managed to keep but a bare half dozen. Azana himself only obtained a 
seat through the good will of Prieto , and the largest of their groups, the 
Radical Socialists, got no seats at all. The Socialist party also did 
badly: its numbers dropped from 116 to 58, though it maintained and 
even increased its strength in Madrid. The Catalan Esquerra declined 
from 46 to 19, whilst its rival, the Lliga, mopped up the seats it had 
lost. The Radicals increased their following slightly, so that, as they 
usually voted with the Lliga, the Centre block can be said to have gone 
up by 30. But the chief gainers from this landslide were the Right: 
their numbers leaped up from 42 to 207. Spain seemed to be turning 
against the Republic. 

The swing of the pendulum had not, however, been nearly so 
violent as these figures would suggest. The new election law had been 
devised to favour the formation of two main groups in the Cortes, in 
imitation of the English party system: voting was for lists of candi 
dates and parties which combined to form a united front obtained a 
great advantage over those that did not. The side which was vic 
torious at the polls was further given a representation in the Cortes 
that was out of all proportion to its voting figure. In this election 
the Right had presented a united front and the Left had not. Thus it 
happened that, although the Right obtained twice as many seats in the 
Cortes as the Left, the number of votes cast for it was actually less 
than those cast for the disunited Left parties. 

The principal cause of the defeat of the Left wing parties was thus 
the refusal of the Socialists to collaborate with the Left Repubicans 
at the elections. They had been getting on badly ever since the scandal 
over the Casas Viejas affair. Their failure to put through any serious 
measure of agrarian reform and the knowledge that their continued 
participation in the Government was making them unpopular among 



266 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

their own followers had led to an increasing dissatisfaction among the 
party leaders. Since the Republicans had now gone to the full length 
of their tether, whilst the Socialists felt that their programme had 
scarcely begun to be carried out, further collaboration seemed out of 
the question. But their going to the elections alone was an act of 
suicide. By doing so they lost all the advantages of the new electoral 
law which they had helped to draw up and of which the Right parties 
were quick to avail themselves. The result of this was that, although 
the Socialists were undoubtedly much stronger numerically in 1933 
than they had been in 1931, they returned only half the number of 
candidates. Such was the penalty paid for putting pride before self- 
interest. 1 

Another cause of the defeat suffered by the Left was the Anarchists' 
abstention. In 1931 large numbers of them had voted for the first 
time in the general enthusiasm. This year they organized a strong 
campaign of no votad, backed by all the resources of their propaganda. 
When the C.N.T. voted it was usually for one of the Republican 
parties, hardly ever for the Socialists. Thus their abstention in these 
elections seriously affected the Esquerra, who lost the votes of the 
Catalan proletariat and had to depend on those of the peasants and the 
petite bourgeoisie. The feminine ballot also played its part. In the 
middle classes many of the women whose husbands voted Republican 
followed their priest's direction and voted for the Right. In the 
working classes it was different: here the women were just as anti 
clerical as the men and the Socialist vote therefore did not suffer. 

The dissensions of the Left were not, however, enough by them 
selves to account for the new situation. The forces of the Right had 
also greatly strengthened themselves. In the previous elections they 
had been obliterated because they had been associated with the 

1 The Electoral Law of the Republic was briefly as follows. Each constituency 
returned several members, but the electors were entitled to vote only for a limited 
number of candidates that is, for less than the full number of deputies to be 
elected. Madrid elected seventeen and the electors were entitled to vote for thir 
teen: Barcelona elected twenty and the electors could vote for sixteen. The party or 
combination of parties which obtained a majority of votes could thus in Madrid win 
thirteen seats and the largest minority, even if nearly equal to the majority, could 
only win four. The advantage given to large combinations of parties is obvious. 

In this election the voting in Madrid was: Socialists 175,000: Right 170,000: 
Left Republicans and Radicals between them 100,000. The Socialists therefore 
obtained 13 seats, the Right 4 and other parties none. Here the Socialists, on account 
of their exceptional strength, gained. In the provinces, however, their quarrel with 
Azana's party combined with the large sums spent by the Right in buying votes 
caused them to lose. The number of votes cast for the different parties is discussed 
in Note A on p. 3 14 of the next chapter. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 267 

Monarchy. Their followers had either stayed at home or, in the hopes 
of putting a brake on the Republic, had voted for the Radicals. It was 
only to be expected therefore that they should now reassert them 
selves. But the scale of their success was due to careful organization. 
After the destruction of the old Monarchist parties in 1931 a new 
party known as Accion Popular was founded as the political branch of 
a Catholic organization, Accion Catolica. Accion Popular represented 
the reaction of the Church and especially of the Jesuits to the Re 
public. It was a superficial imitation of the German Catholic party 
and was intended by its founders to be, not simply the party of the 
caciques, the Army and the aristocracy, but of the Catholic masses as 
well. It accepted the Republic, but not the anti- Catholic laws, and the 
main part of its programme consisted in a demand for the revision of 
the Constitution. Its social programme was of the vaguest kind, 
because those few Catholics who saw the necessity for agrarian reform 
and sickness and unemployment insurance were overshadowed by the 
landlords. In spite of the good intentions expressed by the founders 
of the party, these had the principal say in policy because they pro 
vided the funds. The brain behind the party was Angel Herrera, the 
director of the Debate, a paper controlled by the Jesuits, and he put 
forward as its leader a young man of some talent but very mediocre 
personality called Gil Robles. 

Jose Maria Gil Robles was the son of an eminent professor of law, 
who after being the sieve modele of the Salesian Fathers at their 
college at Salamanca had gone on to the staff of the Debate. Here he 
had the good luck to please his masters who, when it became evident 
that the Dictatorship would not last long and that bad times lay ahead, 
picked him to be leader of the new Catholic party. A match was 
arranged for him with the daughter of the Conde de Reviikgigedo, 
one of the richest men in Spain, which gave him the position and 
connections that, as a Catholic leader, he required. He then took 
his honeymoon in Germany. In his search for new political ideas he 
visited first the Nuremberg Rally, where he was impressed by Hitler, 
and later Dollfuss. The persecution of the Church by the Nazis 
caused him to react against his first favourable impressions and he 
finally fixed his eyes on the Austrian Corporative State, which became 
the goal towards which he hoped to direct the destinies of Spain. But 
in Germany he had learned something of the value of propaganda in 
political campaigns and on his return to Spain he proceeded to put 
these lessons into practice. The Casas Viejas episode had made it 



268 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

clear that an election could not be long delayed and, in order to secure 
the majority his party hoped for, it would be necessary to take advantage 
of the new electoral law and form a block of all the Right-wing parties. 

The first step was to group around Action Popular various small 
Catholic bodies of like nature: the Confederation of Fathers of 
Families, the Catholic Youth Organization, and so on. The new party 
thus formed was known as the Confederation Espanola de Derechos 
Autonomos, or more briefly the Ceda. This party then proceeded to 
form an election block with four other Right-wing parties: Renovation 
Espanola, the small Monarchist party; Comunion Traditionalist a, the 
Carlist party; the Basque Nationalists and the Agrarians. The latter 
were a party very close in feeling to the Ceda, whose programme was 
confined entirely to the defence of the landed interest. They represented 
in the country districts very much what the Radicals did in the 
towns. Gil Robles, whose party, the Ceda, with no deputies was the 
strongest in the Cortes, became the leader of the new combination. 1 

The next months were spent in preparations. Dockets were drawn 
up in Nazi style upon every voter, giving particulars as to his 
opinions, where he worked and who could influence him. Political 
functions and rallies were organized. All this cost money. The old 
parties of the Monarchy had always got along without regular funds : 
their election expenses had been kept down to a minimum and the 
chief inducement offered to voters had been the hope that, if they 
were victorious, they would share the spoils. But now the cacique 
system only worked in the more isolated districts and therefore money 
was necessary. Money for propaganda in the towns and for buying 
votes in the country. The landlords were the only people who could 
pro vide it. Thus any hope of the Ceda's carrying through even the most 
moderate programme of social reforms was ruled out from the start. 
The landlords, and especially those of the Monarchist group who, 
being the richest, had made the largest contributions, were in a 
position to prevent it. Composed as it was of so many discordant 
elements and hopelessly divided within itself, the combination led by 
the Ceda was incapable from the first of any positive decisions. 

The question of the composition of the Government was the first 
to come up. The largest party in the house was the Ceda, but it did not 

1 The relative strengths of the chief Right-wing parties are shown by the number of 
deputies they returned to the Cortes. Ceda, no: Agrarians, 36: Traditionalists, 20: 
Renovacion Espaiiola, 15: Basque Nationalists, 14. Nothing could show better the 
unpopularity of the late king than the small size of his party in this Cortes. The 
Monarchy had become a lost cause. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 269 

have an absolute majority. It was natural therefore that the Centre, 
in other words the Radicals, should form a Government. They could 
depend either on the votes of the Left or on those of the Right. It is 
significant that they chose the latter. As a result of this there was 
a small secession from their party. Martinez Barrio crossed the 
house with a group of some thirty followers and took his seat beside 
Azana. The Catalan Lliga and, for a time, the Agrarians joined the 
Government. The latter had a policy of assisting the landowners by 
'revalorizing agricultural produce' in other words increasing the 
duty on foreign cereals and reducing wages which they were anxious 
to put through. 

The intentions of the Government were soon seen. Within a few 
weeks all the legislation fixing wages and conditions of employment 
that had been passed by the Constituent Cortes was either repealed or 
allowed to lapse: the tenants' guarantee against capricious eviction 
was thrown overboard: some 19,000 peasants who had been settled on 
the large estates in Extremadura were evicted : wages (which had no 
doubt been too high) fell by 40 or 50 per cent and landlords, to assist 
the process, began dismissing hands. At the same time as much as 
possible of the anti-clerical legislation of the last government was 
allowed to lapse and the substitution of lay schools for religious ones 
was indefinitely postponed. The expenditure on education was also 
drastically reduced. These measures were the more extraordinary 
because the Radicals had always won their elections on the anti 
clerical ticket and had recently voted in favour of the laicization of 
education. It was the price they had to pay for the support of the 
Ceda. 

More significant still was the passage of an Amnesty Bill, setting 
free all persons involved in Sanjurjo's military rising, reinstating the 
officers in their previous rank and awarding them their arrears of pay 
for the time they had spent in prison. The grandees, whose estates had 
been confiscated, had their property returned to them. This bill, 
which clearly sanctioned the right of officers to rise against the 
Government, was only passed after an uproar in the Cortes, and the 
President of the Republic signed it with a rider stating that he 
personally disapproved of it. An attempt by the Minister of Justice to 
re-establish the death penalty had to be dropped for fear that it would 
lead to a revolution. There was, in short, hardly an act passed by the 
previous Government that was not either repealed outright or per 
mitted to lapse. Yet the Radical Government was an extremely weak 



270 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

one: there was a ministerial crisis every few weeks, whilst waves of 
small strikes all over the country prevented any possibility of trade 
recovery. 

The Anarchists had not, however, waited for the new Government 
to show its hand before declaring open war against it. During the 
elections, it will be remembered, they had conducted a strong propa 
ganda campaign against voting. The result was that the reactionary 
parties won. The Anarchists then felt that their honour required that 
they should answer this * triumph of fascism' in the only way open to 
them that is by an armed revolt. They would show the Socialists 
what was the proper way of fighting the bourgeoisie. 

After the usual consultations of the F.A.I., the different regional 
committees of the C.N.T. met to decide what could be done. All were 
agreed that revolutionary action, stronger than any hitherto taken, was 
necessary. But most of the Regional Federations had exhausted them 
selves on previous risings and were without arms. It was decided 
therefore that the Aragonese Federation should be the only one to 
rise, but that it should be supported in other parts of Spain by general 
strikes. 

The Aragonese are the toughest and most obstinate of all the 
Spanish peoples, as the history of their conflicts and of the famous 
sieges of Numantia and Saragossa shows. The Socialist party (owing 
perhaps to the fact that it was associated with Castile) had never had 
many adherents among them. The workers in the towns, the peasants 
on the bare wind-swept paramos, who a century before had flocked 
to the Carlist banners, now followed the red and black flag of the 
C.N.T. Saragossa itself was a C.N.T. stronghold, the centre of a purer 
brand of anarchism than could be found in half-syndicalist Barcelona. 

The rising broke out on 8 December and comunismo libertario was 
proclaimed in many of the villages of Aragon and by the vineyard 
hands of the Rioja. In Saragossa, Huesca and Barbastro attempts 
were made to seize the public buildings, and barricades were thrown 
up. In other parts of Spain Andalusia, Valencia and Corunna 
there were strikes and church burnings. Only Catalonia, exhausted 
by the efforts of the previous year, kept quiet. But the insurrection 
did not last long. The Government hurried up fresh troops and at the 
end of four days all was over. Against the C.N.T. both the rank and 
file of the Army and the Republican police could be trusted. 

What was remarkable about this rising was that for the first time in 
Spain clear instructions were issued for a social revolution. Mills and 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 271 

factories were taken over by the workers, and factory committees set 
up. Other committees for food, transport and so on were organized on 
the lines set down by Kropotkin. The rising was regarded as a re 
hearsal for the coming revolution, if not as the actual beginning of it 
But the fatal weakness of Anarcho-Syndicalism was seen in the fact that 
only one out of the forty-six provinces in Spain rose. What could be 
hoped for from that? The F.A.I, were once again playing at revolu 
tion. However it is characteristic of Spaniards to be satisfied with 
gestures and with petty acts of defiance and courage and to neglect 
the real heart of the matter. The Arabs conquered the whole of Spain 
in two years. It took the Spaniards eight centuries to get rid of them. 1 

The real strength of the C.N.T. lay not, however, in their armed 
revolts, but in their powers of syndical resistance. This was proved by 
a general strike that took place at Saragossa in March 1934 only three 
months after the suppression of the rising as a protest against the 
bad treatment of the prisoners taken in the previous December. It 
lasted four weeks and during that time Saragossa remained a dead 
city. The children of the strikers were sent to other towns to be 
fed. A similar but shorter strike took place ia Valencia. When one 
remembers that the C.N.T. had no strike funds, one can appreciate 
the courage and endurance required in these contests. If the Anarcho- 
Syndicalists could not bring off their revolution, they at all events 
knew how to keep a revolutionary situation alive. 

As I have pointed out in a previous chapter, the outstanding success 
of the Anarchist movement in Spain lay in the moral influence it 
exercised among the workers. 'Whilst everywhere ', wrote an English 
Socialist, 'the workers' movement is bent on attaining comfort and 
security, the Spanish Anarchist lives for liberty, virtue and dignity.' 2 
That is exact. If, unlike other revolutionary parties, Anarchists cared 
little for strategy, that was because they believed that revolution 

1 In the rising 67 of the C.N.T. were killed and 87 seriously wounded. This 
shows the relatively small scale of the fighting. Nearly 6000 arrests were made by 
the police and the C.N.T. was declared an illegal organization, though the Govern 
ment was too weak to enforce this. See Nos. 170, 171 and 172 of the Bulletin of the 
LW.M.A. The first contains the text of a proclamation by the C.N.T. on the organi 
zation of the committees. 

An amusing sequel to the rising was the holding up of the judges of the court who 
were trying prisoners and the carrying off under their noses of all the evidence 
that had been prepared by the police. This hold-up was organized by Durruti from 
prison. 

z Spain To-day, by Edward Conze, p. 62. This little book, whilst misleading on 
many points, gives an excellent picture of the relations of Socialists and Anarcho- 
Syndicalists in 1934-1936. 



272 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

would come spontaneously as soon as the workers were morally 
prepared. Their main effort was therefore directed to this prepara 
tion : it was not sufficient for them to gain converts : every worker must 
endeavour to put into practice at once the anarchist conception of life. 
From this it followed that their leaders could not, like the Socialist 
bosses, occupy a comfortable flat in a middle-class quarter: they must 
remain at their jobs in shop or factory like ordinary workmen. In 
strikes and armed risings they must always be at the point of greatest 
danger. No paid bureaucracy could be allowed to direct their huge 
trade union: the workers must manage their affairs themselves 
through their elected committees, even though this meant a sacrifice 
of revolutionary efficiency. Better that the revolution should fail than 
that it should be founded on a betrayal of principle. 

This severely moral attitude was in striking contrast to the be 
haviour of the Socialists. For three years they had enjoyed the fruits 
of office : a host of new trade-union officials had grown up and many 
of their leaders received substantial salaries. 1 Yet little good had 
come to the working classes from it. During this same time the 
Anarchists had been giving proof of their devotion to the workers' 
cause by heroic strikes, by bold if useless risings, and in prison cells. 
The reproach was evident. Even those who disagreed with their 
politics were fired by their example. The U.G.T. wavered. After 
more than fifty years of strict reformism, the Socialist party began to 
turn revolutionary. 

We must consider what a change this meant. Only two years before 
Fabra Ribas, the under-secretary to the Minister of Labour, Largo 
Caballero, had spoken as follows: 

'It is not enough to practise Socialism. Socialism has to be won, to 
be deserved. The Socialist party hopes that the Republic will allow 
them to realize this work and that is why they have defended it with 
such ardour.* 

And he went on to explain that the Socialist party did not expect to 
see Socialism in their time, nor even a purely Socialist Government in 
Madrid. They would be content if they could develop their ideas 
gradually. 2 This, of course, was simply the classic attitude of Spanish 
Socialism as held by Pablo Iglesias. Since then nothing had happened 
to make it irrealizable. There had merely been, if one was to judge by 

1 See Note A on p. 295 at end of chapter. 

2 From a speech made on 14 February 1932, on inaugurating the Escuela de 
Trdbajo at Saragossa. Quoted by G. and J. Picard-Moch, UEspagne Republicaine, 
pp. 382-383. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 273 

the surface, a swing of the pendulum which in any other country 
would have been regarded as temporary. Yet by January 1934 opinion 
in the party and still more in the union was veering rapidly in favour 
of abstention from Government until complete Socialist domination 
should be possible that is, towards a revolutionary attitude. 

To explain the reasons for this change we must go back a few years. 
When the Dictatorship fell the Socialists had still been a small party. 
Their trade union, the U.G.T., had been greatly inferior in numbers 
to that of the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Its figure did not reach 300,000. 
Then, under the Republic, it expanded enormously. Its strength in 
June 1932 was over a million. By 1934 it had reached a million and a 
quarter. This prodigious increase gave it a self-confidence it had never 
possessed before. One thing to be noticed about this expansion is 
that most of the new recruits belonged either to the small peasants 
and landless labourers or to the shop-employee class. The Socialists 
had been gaming ground here on the C.N.T., thanks to the new 
labour legislation and to the hopes which their position in the Govern 
ment had raised. The number of miners, factory workers and railway- 
men showed little increase because they had mostly been under 
either Socialist or Anarcho-Syndicalist influence before. The fol 
lowing figures, taken in June 1932, give the proportions: 

445,41 1 rural workers ; 

287,245 factory workers, miners, railwaymen ; 

236,829 clerks and shop employees. 

They show clearly enough why the Socialists were so sensitive to 
discontent in the country districts and so anxious for a comprehensive 
agrarian settlement. 1 

The refusal of the Republican parties to treat agrarian reform 
seriously lay then at the root of the Socialists* disillusion with the 
Republic. It was a feeling that welled up from below, affecting the 
young more than the old, the recently joined rather than the con 
firmed party men. That it was especially strong in Madrid was 
perhaps due to the small but energetic Anarchist nucleus in that city. 
(Generally speaking a small but well-organized group of Anarchists 
in a Socialist area drove the Socialists to the Left, whereas in pre 
dominantly Anarchist areas, Socialists were outstandingly reformist.) 
This feeling found a leader in Largo Caballero. As President of the 
U.G.T. he was especially alive to the danger of losing ground to the 

1 See Note B on p. 295 at end of chapter. 



274 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

Anarcho-Syndicalists. And he had also a personal grievance. First of 
all he had quarrelled with Azaiia. Then as Minister of Labour he had 
been especially disgusted at the way in which much of the legislation 
drawn up by him had been sabotaged. Sabotage is an old weapon in 
Spain, the formula expressing it, obedecemos pero no cumplimos, 'we 
obey but won't comply', dating back many centuries. Caballero had 
found that even the officials in his own ministry refused to obey the 
directions given them. There was a conspiracy to make nonsense of 
everything. Thus it came about that already in February 1934 he was 
saying that ' the only hope of the masses is now in social revolution. It 
alone can save Spain from Fascism.' As Maurin puts it, c Caballero, 
the representative of opportunist reformism, became in 1934 the man 
of the masses'. Eighty years before this Carl Marx had pointed out 
that Spanish revolutionary movements developed more slowly than 
those of other countries and that they usually took several years to 
reach their climax. Thus there was really nothing very surprising in 
this new development. 1 

The first step taken to carry the new policy into effect was the 
organization by the U.G.T., and by Largo Caballero in particular, of 
the Alianza Obrera or Workers' Alliance. This was intended as a sort 
of Popular Front, confined to working-class parties and organized 
locally. The C.N.T. refused to join. Feeling between the two great 
unions was very bitter and the Anarcho-Syndicalists refused to believe 
that the Socialists could change their skin so suddenly and after 
fifty years of domesticity develop revolutionary instincts. They had 
also a deep distrust of Caballero, who had always displayed a strong 
hostility to them. They got on better xvith the Right wing, with 
Prieto. The Communists also refused to join. They were still in their 
wildly revolutionary phase and at loggerheads with every other group 
or party in the country. All that was left therefore was the Bloque 
Obrero y Campesino, or Workers' and Peasants' Block, a small group 
of Left Marxists confined to Catalonia, 2 and the Sindicatos de Opo- 
sicion or Trentistas of Pestana and Peiro, which had recently seceded 
from the C.N.T. and were also confined to Catalonia and Valencia. 
Later the Rabassaires, or Catalan Peasants' party, joined them. Thus 
it happened that the Alzanza Obrera (till August at all events) only 
managed to come to life in Catalonia, where, like the P.S.U.C two 

1 * Three years seem to be the shortest limit to which she restricts herself, whilst 
her revolutionary cycle sometimes expands to nine.' (Revolutionary Spain, a series 
of articles contributed to The New York Daily Tribune in 1854.) 

2 See Note C on p. 296 at end of chapter. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 275 

and a half years later, It owed its raison d'etre to jealousy of the 
Anarcho- Syndicalists. It was even strong enough to declare a general 
strike which was effective in one town Sabadell. A strike in 
Catalonia that was not anarchist ! And on the orders of Caballero 
that is, of Madrid ! Maurin, the leader of the Blague Qbrero, felt 
such enthusiasm for the new venture that for a moment he con 
sidered joining the Socialist party. 

The conditions in the country districts, which had been bad enough 
in 1933, were rapidly deteriorating. The fall of wages, the dismissals 
of workmen, the relaxation of the laws safeguarding tenants, permitted 
and encouraged by the Government in the hopes of reviving trade and 
stimulating capital, had brought an enormous increase of misery. The 
Vizconde de Eza, a Monarchist deputy and a famous authority on 
agriculture, declared that in 1934 150,000 families on the land lacked 
the bare necessities of life. Some pueblos had almost a thousand men 
unemployed through nine-tenths of the year. When he asked a group 
of these men what solution they had to the problem, ' Let them kill half 
of us ' was the answer. 1 The misery was so immense that the landlords 
themselves were petrified. Partly for economic reasons, but still more 
no doubt with the design of dealing the coup de grace to the tottering 
Republic, they had dismissed large numbers of workmen and were 
cultivating as little of their land as possible. But in the face of so much 
misery they were too weak to assert themselves and the Government, 
which was mortally afraid of another Casas Viejas, had given the 
police orders to keep as much in the background as possible. Thus it 
happened that the Socialists were able in several provinces to take 
over land more or less by force from the landlords and to organize 
collectives on it. So feeble had the Government become since Azaiia 
had ceased to lead it ! 

The collectivization was managed in this way. An official of the 
Land Workers' Federation of the U.G.T., at the head of a large body 
of unemployed labourers, would approach a landowner and invite him 
to lend a certain part of his land to form a collective. He himself 
would be enrolled as a member and would draw profits from it. All 
the documents would be prepared beforehand and he would be in 
vited then and there to sign. Under the circumstances few had the 
courage to refuse. In this way about a hundred collectives were 
organized in the province of Ciudad Real and nearly as many again 
in that of Toledo. Others were established in Jaen, Badajoz and 
1 See Note D on p. 296 at end of chapter. 



276 THE B1ENIO NEGRO 

Valencia. A school with classes In the use of tractors and in book 
keeping was opened at Valdepenas by Felix Torres. Although the 
capital was small and few of the collectives managed to acquire 
tractors, most of them seem to have worked well enough to remain in 
existence down to the end of the Civil War. 

All this misery and unrest in the country districts culminated in a 
general strike in June 1934. Things had been working up to it for a 
long time, but when it came it was too late to be effective. Hungry 
men do not make good strikers. The object of the strike w r as to compel 
the landlords to observe the labour charter set up by the Republic, and 
both the C.N.T. and the U.G.T. took part in it. The harvesters 
downed tools in fifteen provinces, but after nine days returned to work 
on a compromise. 

Meanwhile the process of undermining the work of the Republic 
from the Government benches was steadily going on. Lerroux had 
ceased to be premier in March and another Radical, Ricardo Samper, 
had taken his place. This Government was, if possible, even weaker 
and more stupidly provocative than the last. One of its first acts was 
to quarrel with the Catalans. 

The position in Catalonia was as follows. Thanks to Anarchist 
abstention at the polls, the Lliga had sent 25 deputies to the Cortes 
and the Esquerra only 19. But in the elections to the Generalidad, or 
Catalan Autonomous Government, which followed in January, the 
Anarchists repented of their hasty action and the Esquerra won a 
complete victory. As Colonel Macia had died in December 1933, 
Luis Companys was now the leader of this party. Difficulties soon 
cropped up over the Agrarian question. The laws which the Con 
stituent Cortes had passed fixing rents and prohibiting unjustified 
dismissals of tenants had either been repealed by the Radicals or had 
been allowed to lapse quietly. Evictions of tenants were going on all 
over Spain as in the old bad days. The Catalan landowners were not 
behindhand in this and, taking advantage of certain long-disputed 
contracts, began to evict tenants whose leases they considered were 
up. Within a few months more than a thousand families had been 
dispossessed of land which in most cases they had cultivated for 
generations. 

There are few large estates in Catalonia : most of the land is in the 
hands of small propertied men who have put their business savings 
into it and who re-let it to a class of peasants known as the Rabas- 
saires. The type of contract they use belongs to the familiar aparceria 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 277 

or share-cropping system, in which costs and fruits are shared equally 
by tenant and owner. But, as most of the land so rented is used for 
vineyards, the duration of the contract is based upon the life of the 
vines. The land reverts to the owner when three-quarters of the 
planted vines have died (rdbassa morte) and he can then renew it or not 
as he thinks fit. The Catalan peasants had made an art of prolonging 
the life of the vines and in the old days they lasted as a rule for fifty 
years. This assured the labourer a contract that would cover his 
working life and remunerate him for the six or eight years of fruitless 
labour that young vines require before they mature. 

But the phylloxera plague in the nineties killed the old vines and led 
to the introduction of a new type of plant which required much more 
care and labour and had a maximum life of only twenty-five years. 
This created a situation which was manifestly unjust. However, when 
the first of the new contracts terminated during the European War, 
prices were so high that no disputes over the renewal occurred. It 
was not till the fall in wine prices came that the Rabassaires began to 
feel the injustice of their position. They then organized themselves 
with the assistance of Companys in a syndicate and, when the Dicta 
torship fell, placed themselves under the protection of the Esquerra. 1 
In exchange for its political support they agreed to vote for it at 
elections. That support was now called for and accordingly in April 
the Government of the Generalidad passed the Ley de Cultivos to 
regulate the matter. It was a moderate bill, empowering tenants to 
acquire land they had cultivated for fifteen years and setting up 
tribunals for arbitration. But the landlords would not accept it and 
appealed to Madrid. The Spanish Government laid the matter before 
the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees to decide whether or not 
the Generalidad had power to pass such a bill. This tribunal, whose 
membership had recently been changed to bring it into harmony with 

1 The Rabassaires first organized themselves in 1923 as an agricultural society 
under Companys* leadership. In spite of their adherence to the Esquerra they took 
little interest in politics. Some of their members syndicated with the C.N.T. and 
others with the U.G.T. On the other hand a certain number of Anarchists and 
Socialists were members of the Rabassaires, which they regarded as an agricultural 
syndicate. 

For the Rabassaires were simply small peasants who believed in socialization and 
in minding their own affairs. They had a programme of agricultural co-operatives, 
credit institutions and mutual aid societies in which, without any aid from the State, 
they had produced surprising results. Their ideas were untheoretical and were 
modified by practical experience, but they showed a great persistence in carrying 
them out. Their co-operatives provide a rosy picture of what agricultural society 
might have become under more favourable auspices over a large part of Spain. 



278 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

the views of the Government, decided that it had not. On this 
Companys defied Madrid and declared that the law would be carried 
into effect all the same. The Lliga, which might have mediated, 
refused to continue sitting in the Catalan Parliament and walked out. 

At the same time that the Government were breaking with the 
Catalans they were quarrelling with the Basques. The Basques have a 
long tradition of liberty and self-government. Down to 1840 they had 
their own parliament, courts of law and mint. They raised their own 
militia and the King could not send troops through their country 
without their permission. Their administration was distinguished 
through the whole of Spain for its efficiency and lack of corruption. 
But, as a punishment for their support of Don Carlos, they lost their 
autonomy, retaining only certain fueros or privileges. These allowed 
them to raise their own taxes, to have their own. douane or customs and 
exempted them from military service. Then, as a result of their par 
ticipation in the Second Carlist War, they were deprived of these also, 
but were given what was called a Conderto Economico. This, among 
other things, permitted them to assess their own taxes and to pay a 
certain fixed sum to the Treasury. 

After 1900 a national party appeared in the Basque provinces just 
as it had done some years before in Catalonia. Like the Lliga, it was a 
party of large industrialists and of small Catholic bourgeois and 
farmers. Its desire for autonomy sprang from much the same causes 
national sentiment mixed with the resentment of a modern and 
enterprising race at being ruled by a body of Castilian soldiers and 
landowners. There was also a religious motive. The Basque National 
ists, who were intensely Catholic, wished to remove their country 
from the corrosive influence of Spanish anti- clericalism and to govern 
it in accordance with the encyclicals of Leo XIII. But the feeling 
behind them was not so strong as it was in Catalonia, because the 
Basques, like the Scots, are a race of mountaineers who have long been 
accustomed to find a field for their enterprise outside their own 
country. Economically speaking, they are extroverts. Nor was the 
primitive Basque language such a useful rallying point as the Catalan. 
Not only did it lack its literary traditions, but it was spoken in only 
two provinces, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa, and in the Pyrenean valleys of 
Navarre. In the southern province, Alava, it had almost died out and 
for this reason the adherence of the Alavese was tepid. On the other 
hand, the Basque Nationalists gained from the fact that the social 
problem in their territory was much less acute than in Catalonia, 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 379 

Apart from a nucleus of Socialists in the iron foundries at Bilbao, 
whose conduct was entirely reformist and who in any case were not 
Basques but immigrants from other parts of Spain, their only rivals 
were the Traditionalists or Carlists, who were supreme in Navarre 
just as they themselves were supreme in the two Biscayan provinces. 

The Basque question thus resolved itself into a straggle between 
two ultra-Conservative Catholic parties, one of which hoped to satisfy 
its religious and social ideals by setting up a regime of its own in 
comparative isolation from the vicissitudes of Spanish politics, whilst 
the other, which had just the same ideals, preferred the more am 
bitious policy of assisting the Catholic parties of Castile to impose 
them by force upon the rest of the country. A glance at the map 
will show the reason for these differences of attitude. Vizcaya and 
Guipiizcoa are cut off from Spain by the Cantabrian Mountains and 
look out on the sea, whilst Navarre is cut off from France by the 
Pyrenees and faces the interior of the Peninsula. The former have 
developed strong links with Western Europe by their industry and 
commerce, whilst the latter is oriented towards Castile. These factors, 
not to mention other historical ones, account for wide differences of 
temperament and outlook differences which one may observe even 
in their religion, for whereas the Basques have developed a Catholi 
cism of the Belgian type with trade unions and social services, the 
Navarrese have retained their primitive crusading mentality. Under 
normal conditions this rivalry of the two branches of the Basque 
family would have remained a local issue, but as the tension in the rest 
of Spain between the parties of the Right and Left mounted up, it was 
natural that they should be drawn in and forced to take sides. 

This, however, did not happen immediately. The first reaction of 
the Basque Nationalists to the Republic was not favourable. Out 
raged by the anti-clerical clauses in the Constitution, their deputies 
walked out of the Cortes. But the bait of an autonomy statute soon 
brought them back. Some time was spent in the discussion of the 
different drafts, partly because the Basques insisted on having full 
religious control with the right to appoint their own representatives at 
the Vatican, and partly because Alava, torn between the Biscay pro 
vinces and Navarre, was lukewarm. A suitable text had only just been 
agreed on when the Cortes was dissolved. 

At the elections the Basques voted with the Ceda. But hardly were 
they over when they discovered that neither the Ceda nor the Radicals 
would allow the passage of their Autonomy Statute. This set them 



28o THE BIENIO NEGRO 

moving towards the Left. In the question of the Catalan Ley de 
CultivoS) they took sides with the Bsquerra. At this moment the 
Government, which seemed to take pleasure in multiplying the 
number of its enemies, was unwise enough to impose a tax that 
was contrary to the provisions of the Conderto Economico. 

The Basques decided to hold special elections in their municipa 
lities as a protest against it. The Government forbade the elections 
and when they took place tried to prevent them. A few shots were 
fired and the Monarchist paper, the A.B.C., came out with a leading 
article in which it said: 'We prefer the Communists to the Basques.' 
All the Basque municipalities resigned and their deputies followed the 
example of the Esquerra and again walked out of the Cortes. Thus by 
September the Spanish Government had managed to quarrel seriously 
with both the Basques and the Catalans. 

Whilst the Radical Government had succeeded in revoking the 
majority of the acts of the First Republican Cortes and was now 
proceeding to threaten the remainder, Gil Robles' party, the Ceda, 
was preparing to take a step forwards. The composite nature of this 
party, continually at variance with itself, and the necessity for ap 
pearing to accept the Republican regime without outraging its 
Monarchist allies had led to a number of contradictory statements 
being made by its leader. But there was never any secret as to what 
its aims really were. Gil Robles' programme was conceived in the form 
of a series of steps: first he would form a coalition government with 
the Radicals: then he would hold power alone: then, having prepared 
the ground, he would hold elections which he would manage so as to 
secure an overwhelming victory : finally, he would return triumphant to 
the seat of glory and change the Constitution. Circumstances would 
decide whether a Corporative State on the Austrian model should 
be at once set up and whether the Monarchy should be restored. 1 

1 At a ^ speech to his followers just before the 1933 election Gil Robles spoke as 
follows: 'We must move towards a new state. What matters if it means shedding 
blood? We need an integral solution that is what we are seeking. In order to 
realize that ideal we will not detain ourselves in archaic forms. Democracy is for us 
not an end, but a means to go to the conquest of a new state. When the moment 
comes either the Cortes will submit or we shall make it disappear. ' (El Debate.} 

At other times he insisted that rebellion against constituted authority was illegal 
and contrary to the teachings of the Church. Neither sedition nor conspiracy was 
permissible. It would certainly be true to say that he hoped to attain his ends by 
legal means. The Falangist writer, Gimenez Caballero, makes the following com 
ment: ^Apparently fascist, apparently nationalist, he has felt obliged to eliminate 
from his side every authentic nationalist and fascist element.' He and his party with 
their * Vatican policy of traditional Jesuitism ' were * bastard souls, without genital force *. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 2 8l 

The moment for carrying out the first step seemed BOW to have 
arrived and at a great rally of the Youth Organizations of his 
party at Covadonga in September, their leader made one of his 
typically equivocal and provocative speeches : 'The way is clear before 
us. Not one moment more ! For ourselves we want nothing, but we 
will no longer suffer this state of things to continue.' These words 
were interpreted to mean that his party would no longer support the 
Radicals when the Cortes reassembled on i October. A week later he 
confirmed this in less oracular language. 

The parties^of the Left had watched the gradual sabotage of almost 
all the legislation of the Constituent Cortes without any protest more 
violent than a strike, but they did not, if they could help it, intend to 
see the Constitution destroyed altogether. They were ready, if neces 
sary, to take up arms to prevent this. The only question was, when 
should that moment arise? The Republicans, bound to their parlia 
mentary rules, did not think it had come yet. The Socialists were 
divided the followers of Prieto being of the opinion that a revolution 
at this moment would fail, whilst those of Caballero were eager for it. 
It was a difficult decision to take : on the one hand the preparations for 
a rising were not sufficiently advanced and few arms were available: 
on the other hand, if this moment were not seized and the Ceda were 
allowed to enter the Government, the opportunity might never occur 
again. The memory of the destruction of the Socialists in Vienna by 
Dollfuss was still fresh in everyone's minds and Gil Robles was one of 
Dollfuss's disciples. A vote was taken, and a decisive majority gave their 
support to Caballero. The Esquerra, which controlled the Generaiidad, 
were also ready to raise the standard of revolt in Catalonia. 

On i October the Cortes met and the Government resigned. Gil 
Robles demanded a majority of the seats in the next cabinet for his 
followers. The parties of the Left warned the President that if any 
member of the Ceda entered the Government they would regard it as 
a declaration of war on themselves. They pressed him on the contrary 
to dissolve the Cortes. After long hesitation Don Niceto chose what 
seemed to him to be the correct constitutional course and instructed 
Lerroux to form a government which should include three minor 
members of the Ceda. Correct perhaps, but catastrophic in its results, 
when one remembers that all the disasters that have follo\ved for 
Spain may be traced to this one unhappy decision. For the Socialists 
did not accept this compromise and on the following day (5 October) 
a general strike of the U.G.T. began all over the country. Azana and 



282 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

the other members of the Republican parties, including even the 
Conservative Miguel Maura, were so disgusted with the President 
that they declared they would no longer sit in this Cortes nor have 
personal relations with him again. 

The revolutionary movement that followed broke out simulta 
neously in three different centres Barcelona, Madrid and the mining 
district of the Asturias. In the other provinces of Spain, wherever the 
U.G.T. was sufficiently strong, there were general strikes in the towns 
but no violent action. The country districts kept quiet because the 
campesmos' strike in June had exhausted them. Only in Extremadura 
did a few yunteros rise under the leadership of Margarita Nelken, a 
woman Socialist. 

We will begin by describing what happened in Barcelona. The 
situation at this moment in Catalonia was extremely complex. The 
Esquerra controlled the Generalldad or Autonomous Catalan Govern 
ment, but was far from being itself a homogeneous body. One may 
distinguish four separate groups in it. 

(a) The Republican petite bourgeoisie led by Companys. 

(5) A separatist group, the Estat Catald> made up of young patriots, 
led by Dencas and Badia. 

(c) The Catalan Socialist party, a small group composed of work 
men closely linked up with the co-operative movement. 

(a) The Rabassaires, or Peasants* party. 

For months (ever since Macia's death) a struggle had been going on 
in the Esquerra between these groups, which finally became polarized 
in Companys and Dencas. Companys' wing, which was far more 
numerous than that of Dencas, was based on the view that the 
workers, like the middle classes, had Catalan sympathies and pre 
ferred the Esquerra to any party, whether Socialist or Monarchist, 
that took its orders from Madrid. It held out a hand to the Anarchists 
and believed that a modus vivendi could be reached with them. The 
Estat Catald, on the other hand, was a Youth movement founded by 
Macia and composed mostly of workmen and adventurers men 
drawn from the same soil as the sindicatos libres of a dozen years 
beforewith a violent antagonism to the Anarcho-Syndicalists. It 
had a small military organization, the escamots, who wore green 
uniforms. It represented Catalan Nationalism in its most intran- 
sigeant form : in fact it was Catalan Fascism. In spite of its small size 
it had acquired, partly through its military organization, a temporary 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 283 

ascendancy over the other groups in the Esquerra, and Companys felt 
obliged to yield to Dencas' demand that Catalonia should take this 
opportunity for breaking with Madrid. To have refused would have 
meant destroying his party and so, though full of qualms as to the 
possibility of success, he felt it better to lead the movement for 
independence himself. 

The absurdity of a rising in Catalonia without the support of the 
C.N.T. must be only too evident. The only mass following on which 
the Esquerra could count were the forces of the Alianza Obrera (two 
Left Marxist groups and Peiro's Sindicatos de Oposidon), whose 
numbers in Barcelona were insignificant, and the Rabassaires, whose 
forces must take several days to arrive. Companys, left to himself, 
could probably have persuaded the Anarcho-Syndicalists to join, but 
Dencas and Badia, the Chief of Police, went out of their way to 
prevent this from happening. The offices of the C.N.T. were closed 
and daily broadcasts by Dencas against the F.A.I, continued up to the 
day of the rising. At the same time the chances of an immediate 
success lay all on the side of the insurgents. The Generalidad con 
trolled 3400 armed escamots under Badia and 3200 Assault Guards, 
who could be implicitly relied on. The garrison consisted of 5000 men, 
of whom very few were ready to fight. In fact their commander was 
only able to muster 500. The question of eventual success was a 
different matter: without the support of the masses, that is of the 
C.N.T., there was no possibility of this. 

At 7.30 p.m. on 5 October Companys, speaking in a weak and 
hesitating voice, proclaimed from the balcony of the Generalidad the 
independence of the Catalan State within a Spanish Federal Republic. 
After that events moved rapidly. The sympathy of the commander of 
the garrison, General Batet, who was a Catalan, had been hoped for. 
However he stood firm. Soon after ten o'clock several companies of 
troops left the barracks and surrounded the Generalidad. Artillery 
was trained on it and towards midnight a few shells were fired. Before 
dawn next morning the building had been taken, Companys was a 
prisoner and the fight was over. 

While this was going on, Dencas had remained at his office, re 
fusing Companys* appeals for help. When everything was over he 
dismissed his escamots^ who had not been allowed to leave their 
barracks, and sent them home : escaped by an underground sewer and 
crossed the frontier. Later he took refuge in Italy. Although Spain is 
a country where the strangest combinations of cowardice and fanati- 



284 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

cisra are possible, the only rational explanation of Dencas' conduct is 
that he was an agent provocateur in the pay of the Spanish Monar 
chists. After the rising was over Gil Robles declared in the Cortes 
that he had deliberately provoked it: that statement might seem a 
mere boast if Dencas' conduct did not appear to confirm it. 

Meanwhile a general strike of the U.G.T. was going on all over 
Spain, the miners of the Asturias were battering their way into 
Oviedo and there was righting in the streets of Madrid. Madrid was 
the capital of Spanish Socialism and also the headquarters of its 
revolutionary wing. Largo Caballero was personally in charge of the 
operations there. But all the arrangements had miscarried. In view of 
the strong garrisons commanding the exits from the city, it was 
especially important that the workers should have plenty of arms. 
But the greater part of the arms destined for Madrid had been seized 
a month earlier in Asturias and the others did not arrive. A plan to 
blow up the Home Office could not be carried out. The Madrid 
rising was therefore a complete fiasco. 1 

The failure of the risings in Barcelona and Madrid had been 
ignominious : that of the Asturian miners was an epic which terrified 
the bourgeoisie and fired all the working classes of Spain. One may 
regard it as the first battle of the Civil War. The position in Asturias 
was this. The miners and iron workers of Oviedo, Gijon and the 
surrounding towns and villages belonged to an old and long estab 
lished community, which had been syndicated in the U.G.T. and 
C.N.T. since 1912. They had their own cultural institutions, news 
papers and co-operatives and, though the working conditions in the 

1 The arms used in the October rising all came originally from the Government 
arsenals. The principal supply had been ordered by Echevarrieta, the well-known 
Basque financier and friend of Prieto, from the Consorcio de Fabricas Militares in 
1932: nominally required for Abyssinia, they were really intended for Portuguese 
revolutionaries. They were paid for by him and delivered at Cadiz. Hidden first at 
Huelva, they were later taken back to Cadiz for fear the Anarchists should get hold 
of them. Then in August 1934, with the permission of the Radical Minister for War, 
they were embarked on the steamer La Turquesa bound for Bordeaux. On the way 
La Turquesa stopped off the Asturian coast and landed them there, but the police got 
wind of it and seized a considerable part, mostly cartridges. These were the arms 
intended for Madrid, but as the roads to the capital were now closely guarded, what 
remained had to be distributed in Asturias. This consisted of 500 Mauser rifles, 
24 machine guns and several thousand hand grenades. To make up for the loss of 
ammunition seized, a whole train of ammunition from the Toledo Arsenal was 
diverted to Asturias by forging the papers, and stored there. 

The story that the arms used in this rising came from Russia was an invention of 
Right-wing propagandists intended for foreign consumption. As the newspapers of 
every shade of opinion reported at the time, all the arms seized by the police had the 
stamp of the Toledo Arms Factory on them. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 285 

mines were bad, they were, as workmen go in Spain, well paid. They 
had won these advantages through a series of tenacious strikes which 
had developed their sense of solidarity. The great majority belonged 
to the U.G.T. Gijon, however, the port, and La Felguera, a large iron 
foundry, belonged to the C.N.T. and rivalry between Oviedo and 
Gijon, Sama and La Felguera was the normal situation down to 1931. 
Then the Communists captured one of the C.N.T. syndicates and the 
two older parties combined together against the intruder. This new 
alliance was facilitated by the fact that the C.N.T. in Asturias was 
very little under the control of the F.A.I. Peiro was their chief 
influence and, but for the danger of further Communist successes, the 
C.N.T. in this province would probably have joined the Sindicatos de 
Oposicion. 

Thus it happened that when the Alianza Obrera was created under 
Largo Cabailero's auspices, the Asturian branch of the C.N.T. joined 
it. Then the policy of the Comintern changed suddenly to suit the 
exigencies of the Franco-Russian alliance, and the Communist party, 
which hitherto had execrated all contact with other parties, began to 
preach the necessity for united fronts. A few days before the Asturian 
rising broke out their party gave its adhesion to it and the Alianza 
Obrera became the Frente Unico > the prototype of the Popular Front. 
For once all the Spanish working-class parties were united. 

On 5 October the rising began with the storming of the police 
barracks at Sama with sticks of dynamite. On the 6th the miners 
began to enter Oviedo. On the 8th the Small Arms Factory at La 
Trubia was captured with 30,000 rifles and many machine guns. 
By the gth the whole of Oviedo had been occupied except for the 
cathedral and the Governor's palace, in which the small garrison of 
about a thousand soldiers and police took refuge. Without artillery 
they could not be dislodged. All the towns and villages around except 
Gijon had already been occupied. 

Meanwhile three columns were converging on Asturias from the 
east, west and south. On the yth a considerable force of Moorish 
troops (Regular es) and Foreign Legionaries (Tercio), hastily sent for 
from Morocco, disembarked safely near Gijon and was joined by the 
column from the east. On the loth they occupied Gijon. On the i2th 
the main column coming from the west, under the command of 
General Lopez Ochoa, effected its junction with the Moorish troops 
and legionaries of Colonel Yague outside Oviedo. On the following 
day they entered Oviedo. Three days of severe street fighting fol- 



286 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

lowed, but by the ijth the game was evidently up and Belarmino 
Tomas, one of the miners' leaders, met Lopez Ochoa and arranged 
the surrender on the following day. His only request was that the 
Moorish detachments should not enter the miners' villages first. Thus 
ended the unequal war. 

From the moment that Barcelona capitulated and the rising in 
Madrid fizzled out, the miners were of course doomed. Their leaders 
had, however, kept up their spirits with false bulletins and they fought 
till the last with touching optimism, in the belief that the social 
revolution was within their grasp. At La Felguera and in the working- 
class quarters at Gijon comunismo libertario was proclaimed with its 
invariable accompaniment, abolition of money and property, and 
lasted for a few hours. Elsewhere the movement was managed by 
workers' committees on which four Socialists sat with two Anarcho- 
Syndicalists and two Communists. In the villages rationing was 
instituted and bonds for food were issued to shopkeepers. 

The losses were serious altogether 3000 dead and 7000 wounded, 
of whom the immense majority were workmen. 1 In Oviedo the centre 
of the city, including the university, was destroyed. The cathedral 
was badly damaged and its eighth-century chapel, the Camara Santa, 
containing a treasure that dated from the tenth and eleventh cen 
turies, was blown up by a mine. The artillery fire of the soldiers and the 
dynamite cartridges of the miners had between them done the damage. 

The impression made throughout Spain by this rising was naturally 
tremendous. But one effect that could scarcely have been expected 
was the atrocity campaign that raged through all the press of the 
Right. The most incredible tales were solemnly told and vouched for. 
The nuns in the Convent of the Colegio de las Adoratrices at Oviedo 
were said to have been raped : the eyes of twenty children of the police 
at Trubia were said to have been put out: priests, monks and children 
had been burnt alive: whilst the priest of Sama de Langreo was 
declared to have been murdered and his body hung on a hook with the 
notice Tigs' meat sold here' suspended over it. Although the most 
careful search by independent journalists and Radical deputies 
members, that is, of the party then in power revealed no trace of any 
of these horrors, and although the considerable sums raised for the 
twenty blinded children had to be devoted to other purposes because 

1 About 70,000 workers rose. Of these 40,000 belonged to the U.G.T., 20,000 to 
the C.N.T. and 9000 to the Communists. According to the official statistics less 
than three hundred of the dead belonged to the armed forces. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 287 

none of these children could be found, these and other stories con 
tinued to be repeated in the Right-wing press for months afterwards. 
Making every allowance for the ease with which the Spanish upper 
classes fly into a panic and for the fact that atrocity stories make a 
strong pornographic appeal, one can only suppose that a deliberate 
intention lay behind the refusal of the Right-wing press to examine the 
evidence. They wished to produce an atmosphere in which a terrible 
vengeance could be taken. 1 

The greater part of the fighting had been borne by the Terdo, or 
Foreign Legion, and by the Moors. It was without precedent that 
these troops were used in Spain. In 1931, just before the fall of 
the Monarchy, a regiment of the Tercio had been brought over from 
Africa on the King's express wish to put down the expected re 
publican rising. They had broken out and committed their usual 
depredations and Major Franco, the famous cross- Atlantic flyer, 
had protested against the barbarity of their being used on Spanish 
soil. 2 Now it was Major Franco's brother, General Francisco Franco, 
who had ordered their despatch and employment. The new War 
Minister, Diego Hidalgo, a prominent member of the Radical Party, 
had a couple of days before called the future Generalisimo to the 
War Office. 

But if the despatch of the Foreign Legion to fight the miners 

1 El Sol, the leading Liberal newspaper, made an investigation into these atrocity 
stories and could not find a vestige of truth in one of them. A Radical deputy, 
Senora Clara Campoamor, who in 1937 published a book denouncing the mass 
shootings in Madrid, made a similar investigation with the same result. The Mother 
Superior of the Colegio de las Adoratrices indignantly denied that any of her nuns 
had been raped : they had merely, she said, been made to nurse the wounded. Other 
evidence by impartial and even hostile witnesses is given in Revolution en Asturias by 
Testigo Imparcial. Yet books continued to be brought out for the delectation of the 
middle classes in which the most fantastic and horrible atrocities were repeated 
without any attempt at proof. One must add, however, that exactly similar books 
were brought out to excite the feelings of the working classes upon the horrors 
supposed to be perpetrated by monks and nuns within their convent walls. 

As to the real * atrocities' of the Asturian miners, these were confined to the 
shooting in cold blood of about twenty persons, all men. Fourteen of these were shot 
at Turon and included a priest and six teachers of the Brothers of Christian Doc 
trine. The miners had been annoyed by the attempt of the management to introduce 
a new union on the Austrian Catholic model. 

Several churches were burned. At La Felguera the Anarchists set fire to the 
church and all its images with great ceremony : at Portugalete they amused them 
selves by burning a museum of the Inquisition, with its display of instruments of 
torture. At Bembibre in Leon miners of the U.G.T. burned a church, but spared 
an image of the Sacred Heart because it wore a red dress. * Red Christ,' they wrote 
on the pedestal, *we will not hurt you because you are one of us. 5 

2 See Note E on p. 296 at end of chapter. 



288 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

shocked public opinion, what is one to say of that of the Moors? For 
eight hundred years the crusade against the Moors had been the 
central theme of Spanish history: they still continued to be the 
hereditary enemy the only enemy, in fact, against which the Spanish 
armies ever fought. Their savagery in war was well known only a 
dozen years before these same tribesmen had surrounded a Spanish 
army and massacred every man of them except the officers, whom 
they held to ransom. Yet they were now being brought to fight in 
Asturias, that one sacred corner of Spain where the Crescent had 
never flown. By this single act the Spanish Right showed that neither 
tradition nor religion the two things for which they professed to 
stand had any meaning for them. In the terror produced in them by 
the rebellion of 40,000 miners, they showed that they were ready to 
sacrifice all their principles. 1 

The surrender had hardly been made when the repression began. 
General Lopez Ochoa, a humane man and a freemason, who had been 
appointed to command the expedition before General Franco took 
his seat at the War Office, was virtually superseded by the Minister 
for War. 2 The fate of the victims devolved on the Guardia Civil 
and the Foreign Legion. Thousands of arrests were made and the 
prisoners (except for those killed on the way) were brought to the 
Police barracks at Oviedo. Here they were taken out and shot without 
any trial at all in batches. Colonel Yague's Foreign Legionaries and 
Moors had already, as their custom w^as, shot all prisoners taken in the 
fighting. How many more fell in the execution squads of the Civil 
Guard it is impossible to say. The Spanish police are not tender 
hearted and they were now avenging their comrades, who had fallen 
fighting because their tradition does not allow them to surrender. 
Various estimates have been given of the victims and all number 
thousands. But soon news of very much worse deeds than these began 
to be bruited abroad. The miners had captured large numbers of 
arms ; many of these could not be found. It was evident that they had 
been hidden. To find out where, a torture squad was organized by a 
certain police major called Doval. All the devices of the worst German 
concentration camps were then resorted to. That this is not invention 
is shown by the investigations made separately by Fernando de los 
Rios, Alvarez del Vayo and Gordon Ordas and presented to the 
Cortes with full particulars of names, dates and signatures. The 

1 See Note F on p. 297 at end of chapter. 

2 See Note G on p. 297 at end of chapter. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 289 

Government at first refused to believe that such things were hap 
pening, but in the end grew frightened, dismissed Doval, who had to 
leave the country, and set its face against further executions. 1 

Had the Ceda been in control of the Government at this moment, 
it is easy to see what would have happened. But they were not. Even 
Gil Robles was still out in the cold. A silent struggle therefore began 
between the Ceda on one side, and the President and the Radicals on 
the other. If the Ceda could not obtain power whilst the effect of the 
miners' rising was still fresh in people's memories and the Left lay 
crushed and speechless, they would lose their opportunity. The 
struggle took the form of a debate over the fate of the prisoners. 
There were some 40,000 of these. Many of them had been arrested 
merely on suspicion. The charges against them had been lost and no 
one knew why they were there. 2 Against the great majority no evi 
dence could be produced because no witnesses would come forward, 
Still the courts martial went on relentlessly, awarding the usual long 
sentences of imprisonment which everyone knew would never be 
carried out. Then, at the end of March 1935, the expected crisis came. 
Gonzalez Pena, the Socialist deputy for Oviedo, and nineteen others 
of the miners' leaders had been condemned to death by court martial. 
Gil Robles pressed for their execution. But he failed to obtain it. 
Their sentences were commuted by the President on the advice of 
Lerroux, and the ministers belonging to the Ceda together with the 
Agrarians resigned from the Government. Gil Robles had been de- 

1 The tortures most in use were twisting the scrotum, burning the sexual organs, 
squeezing the hands and toes with pincers, breaking the knees with hammers, the 
'torture chair', pretending to execute, beating in the presence of mothers, wives and 
sisters. Some of them left marks which could be seen long afterwards. Mrs Leah 
Manning in her book quotes from various reports. 

2 Apart from the discomfort and overcrowding, the political prisoners in the State 
prisons (those in the Asturias were under police detention) were far from having a 
bad time. They were allowed to walk about the prison as they pleased. Their 
relations and comrades brought them food and cigarettes and there was often a 
prison library well stocked with the works of Lenin and Marx. As the prison 
governors did not know whether their charges might not within a year or two be at 
the head of the Government, they treated them as well as they could. The prisoners 
in the Model Prison at Madrid had however a high idea of what was due to them. 
They sent in a list of demands in every cell there must be a reading lamp, a radio 
and comfortable chair. Charwomen must be provided and every prisoner be allowed 
a daily bath. If these terms were not complied with they threatened to open hos 
tilities and prepare la gran huida general revolucionaria * a grand general revolu 
tionary escape*. 

In other words the prisoners were in high spirits and quite undeterred by the long 
sentences that were being imposed by the courts martial. They got through the 
time in reading and in political discussions and, as one would expect, came out a 
good deal more revolutionary than they went in. 



290 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

manding either elections or that he should be allowed to form a 
government, and again he was foiled. 

The Radicals could not however govern alone, and in April a new 
arrangement was come to which was more favourable to the Ceda. 
Gil Robles and four others of his party sat with two Agrarians and 
three Radicals in the Cabinet: as the Agrarians were more or less a 
branch of the Ceda, Gil Robles must have felt that he was very near 
his goal. A project for the reform of the Constitution was drawn up. 
It included changes in the anti-clerical clauses, a modification of the 
statute of regional autonomy, a repeal of the divorce laws and of the 
clause in the Constitution allowing the State to confiscate private 
property on payment of compensation. But the Government had no 
legal power to modify the Constitution before the end of the year and it 
is doubtful whether Gil Robles would any longer have been satisfied 
with anything short of a corporative regime. The programme was 
therefore mainly a piece of window-dressing. 

Some positive legislation, however, was demanded by everyone. 
The state of misery in the country districts was greater than it had 
ever been within living memory. There were a million more or less 
continually unemployed. Wages had fallen, all the Casas del Pueblo 
and Sindicatos were closed and the landlords paid wages and arranged 
rents as they pleased. Father Gafo, one of the leaders of the Catholic 
Syndical movement, was pressing on Gil Robles the necessity for 
doing something to keep the triumphant landlords in check. A small 
concession, he said, would ruin the Socialist party in Castile. Gil 
Robles listened, but knew that his power rested on the support of the 
landlords. A Catholic minister of the Ceda, Jimenez Fernandez, a 
professor at Seville University who belonged to a small group called 
' popular agrarians ', brought in a bill to assist ihzyunteros of Extrema- 
dura. Owning ploughing mules or oxen but no land, they were 
dependent for employment upon the large landlords, and these had 
decided to leave a considerable part of their estates unploughed. The 
bill was thrown out. On his invoking Canon Law in the Cortes to 
defend the justice of more stable leases, a Monarchist deputy called 
out: 'If you try to take away our land with your encyclicals, we shall 
become schismatics.' When in July a project of agrarian reform was at 
last brought forward by the Government, it was so reactionary that 
even Jimenez Fernandez declared it would be useless. The most 
sensational law of this Government was, however, the Law of Re 
strictions, an economy measure brought in by the independent and 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 29! 

energetic Finance Minister, Chapaprieta. The finances of the country 
had declined gravely from the relatively healthy state in which the 
Azana Government had left them. As a first step towards introducing 
a budget, Chapaprieta proposed some severe cuts in the Government 
service. Sinecures, which had greatly increased during the Radical 
term of office, were once again to be abolished and employees were to 
be compelled to work the hours assigned to them. The law was 
passed, but, as one would expect, it was never put into execution. 

The parties of the Right spent this summer in a state of fervid 
exultation. Since Oviedo the Ceda had greatly increased its member 
ship. Gil Robles had become a miraculous figure, a f iihrer, a master of 
that machiavellian policy at which the Jesuits are reputed to be such 
adepts and which Spaniards of the Right often regard as the highest 
form of statesmanship. With consummate foresight he had provoked 
the Reds into a premature rising which had ruined them : in the same 
way he would lead the Church and the landlords to triumph without 
incurring the dangers of a civil war. It was the tactics of the bull 
fight to provoke the animal to charge and charge again until he was 
worn out, and then to kill him. There was a long tradition among the 
Spanish governing classes of how to break a revolution. Indeed such 
arts contained for them the whole of politics. 

Meanwhile the hero was busy pouring out speech after speech. In 
these he exalted the virtues of prudence, patience, guile and above all 
tactics. Tactics was the word that would lead his followers to the 
summit they desired, that would enable them to place their feet upon 
the necks of their enemies once again. He was never tired of pointing 
out that all the events of the past year, through which he had made 
such a tortuous progress, had been foreseen and even brought about 
by himself. To increase his popularity with his followers he rarely 
spoke now without insulting and defying the other side. The Repub 
licans, he said, were assassins thieves and criminals of the worst 
type. They were the people whose hands were dyed in the blood of 
innocent priests and children. 

'Let us now', he said, addressing a monster meeting at Valencia in 
June, 'raise the walls of our city and set you outside them, for you are 
not worthy to defile what we are fortifying.' Such was the language in 
which a Spanish minister, engaged on a revision of the Constitution, 
addressed one-half of Spain. 

But the Left were now recovering from their despondency. Largo 
Caballero, Azana and Companys faced their trials that summer. 



292 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

Caballero and Azafia were acquitted because no evidence could be 
produced against them. Caballero, it seemed, had acted with great 
caution and during the fighting in the streets of Madrid had not left 
his house. Azana had been arrested in Barcelona in a friend's flat: as 
is now known he had gone there to dissuade the Esquerra, with which 
he had great influence, from committing any rash action. Companys 
drew particular sympathy. Although everyone knew that he had been 
opposed to the rising, he took all the blame for it himself and accused 
no one. He was tried by the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees 
and sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment, to be served in a convict 
prison. The Right had certainly played their cards as badly as possible. 
By the mass shootings after Oviedo and by the revolting tortures em 
ployed against the prisoners, a movement of sympathy in their favour 
had been created all over the country. The execution of the leaders had 
become impossible. At the same time the squabbles of the Radicals 
and the Ceda, the incessant shufflings of the ministers and the in 
capacity of any of them to produce any legislation whatever had 
disgusted that large mass of the people whose allegiance was not 
committed either to one side or the other. The Ceda, which had 
virtually held power all summer, had given a pitiful exhibition of its 
weakness and intransigeance. Gil Robles* political manoeuvres had 
not impressed anyone except his own followers. The result was a 
sudden and violent revival of popularity for the Left. Azana, who 
had reorganized the Left Republican groups in a new party, Izguierda 
Republican^ held a monster meeting at Comillas, outside Madrid. It 
was the largest political meeting ever held in Spain four hundred 
thousand people from all over the country attended and it was a 
triumphant success. 

Among the working classes the enthusiasm and expectation were 
even greater. The rebellion in Asturias, which from a military point of 
view had been such a fiasco, had, thanks to the stupidity of the Right, 
been turned into an enormous moral and political success. The entire 
proletariat and peasantry of Spain had been thrilled by the miners' 
heroism and roused to indignation by the vengeance taken against 
them. The Anarchists had been especially affected. They were jealous 
of the success of the despised Socialists and ashamed of the small part 
they had played in it themselves. 

But the one fact about the Asturias rising that impressed itself on 
everyone was this : the miners had gained their rapid success because 
the three working-class parties had united and fought side by side. 



THE BIEN1O NEGRO 293 

U.H.P., Unite Proletarian Brothers, had been their watchword. From 
now on there rose from the ranks of the C.N.T. and the U.G.T. an 
insistent demand that the leaders should scrap their petty jealousies 
and stand side by side to make the revolution. It was this feeling that 
before the end of the year would create the Popular Front. 

This return of the Left to activity had not passed unnoticed by Gil 
Robles. Although he expected before the end of the year to obtain 
power by political means, he did not neglect other precautions. Very 
significantly he had demanded and obtained from Lerroux the 
Ministry of War. With General Franco as his right-hand man he was 
reorganizing the Army and eliminating all officers whom he thought 
might have Left tendencies. It was at this time that those concrete 
trenches were dug on the Sierra Guadarrama overlooking Madrid 
that proved so useful to General Mola's levies in the Civil War. Gil 
Robles showed himself especially anxious to have the control of the 
Civil Guard transferred from the Home Office to the War Office, so 
that all the armed forces in the country should be in his hands. To 
this both Lerroux and the President of the Republic objected, but in 
the new Government formed in September he was able to replace the 
Home Secretary, Manuel Portela Valladares, a man of the Left Centre, 
by another more amenable to his purposes. 

The new Government was led by Chapaprieta, the independent 
who had been Finance Minister in the summer. The object it set itself 
was the passage of a budget. But, whilst it held on its uneasy career, an 
event occurred which destroyed the Ceda-Radical coalition once and for 
all. This was the simper lo (or estraperlo) scandal. Several of the Radical 
ministers were proved to have taken bribes from a Dutch adventurer 
who wished, against the law, to set up gambling saloons in several 
Spanish cities. Lerroux' s adopted son was involved, as well as Ricardo 
Samper, who a few months before had been Prime Minister, and it was 
evident that Lerroux himself must have known of it. Another scandal 
relating to embezzlements from the Colonial Treasury came to light 
at the same moment. 

The truth is that the Radicals were a survival from the old parties of 
the Monarchy. The only party in Republican Spain to have no 
political ideals, all they wanted was that the country should jog along 
quietly. Lerroux personally had a shady history. These scandals 
showed that, in the critical and dangerous times through which Spain 
was passing, a group of ministers and deputies were calmly engaged 
in lining their own nests or perhaps one should say, paying their 



294 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

gambling debts. Spanish opinion, outside a small class of political 
adventurers, is intensely sensitive to such things, and the Radical 
party lost all credit in the country. The majority of the ministers 
resigned. 1 But the actual event that brought the whole Government 
down was different. Chapaprieta at last had his budget ready. Great 
economies had been agreed to, the Civil Service had had its salaries 
cut by 10 to 15 per cent, all new expense on education had been 
abolished but the Prime Minister ventured to impose a small tax on 
the landowners. Death duties were to be raised from i to 3 J per cent. 
The Government split over this the Ceda, on the insistence of the 
landlords, refusing to hear of it. It was December 1935. 

Gil Robles* moment seemed at last to have arrived. The Radicals 
had destroyed themselves. Surely the President would now entrust 
his party with the task of forming a Government. The plan was this 
once in power and having consolidated their position, they would pass 
a bill requesting the President to dissolve the Chamber and hold 
elections on the question of the reform of the Constitution. The 
President would have no option but to do so and the election would 
come at the moment chosen by themselves. Alcala Zamora as a 
sincere Catholic also desired a reform of the Constitution, but the 
conversations he had held the previous summer with Gil Robles had 
convinced him that the latter wished to do away with parliamentary 
government altogether and substitute for it a corporative state on the 
Austrian model. He had also a personal grievance : Gil Robles, far 
from being the consummate diplomat he imagined himself to be, had 
made the mistake of treating the President with hauteur. Alcala 
Zamora had secretly determined that he would never give him com 
plete power. In his opinion the most urgent thing was to build up 
again a Centre party to take the place of the Radicals. He therefore 
handed the reins of government to Portela Valladares, the leader of a 
small independent group, on the understanding that, as soon as he had 
organized his forces sufficiently, there would be an appeal to the polls. 
He forgot that the election law did not favour the success of central 
parties, but on the contrary accentuated the normal swing of the 
pendulum from one side to another. Violently assailed both by the 
Right and the Left (Gil Robles* fury against the President now knew 
no bounds) Portela Valladares found it impossible to maintain a 

1 One reason for the frequent reshuffling^ of the Government during this Cortes 
was that anyone who had been a minister received a pension of 10,000 pesetas for 
life. During the space of two years thirty-eight different members of the Radical 
Party qualified for this pension. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 295 

majority in the Cortes and the President was therefore obliged to sign 
the order for its dissolution. The polling day was fixed for 16 Feb 
ruary 1936. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER XII 

A (p. 272). The Anarcho-Syndicaiists accused the Socialists of enchufismo, which 
one might translate as the art of getting cushy jobs. Andrade, one of the leaders of 
the Left Marxists, has written a whole book upon it. But when one gets down to 
facts one sees that the U.G.T. was organized much like any other European trade 
union. The salaries were small compared to those paid in England and the number 
of officials not excessive there was one to every thousand members. The Anarchists 
of course thought it a scandal that any salaries should be paid at all. 

As regards union funds, these were large for a poor country like Spain and the 
fear of wasting them helped to keep strikes down to a minimum. It was considered 
to be another scandal that so little was paid out for the assistance of prisoners. In 
the Anarchist ranks the prisoners came first: they were regarded by them in the 
same light as were the martyrs in the Early Christian Church and a tremendous 
propaganda and agitation was built up around them. 

When the Republic came in, the rapid expansion of the Socialist movement 
created new posts which there were not sufficient trained men to fill. Some Socialist 
leaders therefore adopted the practice of taking on several posts at once, with of 
course the corresponding pay. This certainly led to scandals: there were cases of 
well-known Socialists receiving as much as 1000 a year a very high salary in 
Spain. Such things gave point to the Anarchists* campaign against voting in 1933. 
'The Cortes', ran one of their posters, 'is a basket of rotten apples. If we send our 
deputies there, they will become rotten too.' 

On the other hand the Socialists could point to the fact that very large sums 
passed through the hands of the C.N.T. and F.A.I. and that, incredible though it 
may seem, it was against their principles to keep accounts. Old-fashioned Anarchists 
regarded money as the source of all evil and abolished it whenever, in some village 
insurrection or other, they proclaimed comunismo libertario t and the others were too 
high-minded to insist on the usual safeguards. Besides it was felt that as a large part 
of the money raised went into buying arms, the less trace of it there was the better. 
But this system was open to abuse and in fact had often been abused. During the 
disturbed years that preceded the Dictatorship in Barcelona, membership of the 
C.N.T. and subscription to its funds had frequently been enforced at the point of 
the revolver and professional pistoleros had found the setting up of a new syndicate 
to be a profitable line of business. 

B (p. 273). The official statistics of the U.G.T. are as follows: 

Syndicates Affiliated workers 

Dec. 1930 1734 277,011 

Dec. 1931 4041 958,451 

June 1932 5107 1,041,539 

The last figures (for 1932) exclude 1091 syndicates which had not answered the 
questionnaire in time. Workers who were not affiliated to a syndicate, but who 
followed the movement, were also numerous. For example, in the Rio Tinto mining 
district, out of 8000 workmen, 4200 belonged to the U.G.T. and about 600 to the 
C.N.T. The remaining unorganized workers mostly followed the U.G.T. (G. and 
J. Picard-Moch, op. dL p. 280). 

As to the numbers of the C.N.T., in November 1934 Miguel Maura in a speech in 
the Cortes gave the statistics collected by the Direcci6n General de Seguridad 
apparently during the previous year. They were : 

U.G.T. 1,444,474 affiliated members 

C.N.T. 1,577,547 



296 THE BIENIO NEGRO 

But the absurd exaggeration of the Communists' adherents (given as 133,236) 
shows that these police figures cannot be relied on. 

The distribution by trades of the Socialists and Anarcho-Syndicalists is well seen 
in the case of Valencia. Here the dock workers, fishermen and more than half the 
builders and metal workers belonged to the C.N.T. The U.G.T. had all the shop 
employees and typographers and half the builders. It also shared with the Catholic 
Associations the peasants and workers on the land : the C.N.T. had none of these. 

C (p. 274). The history of the small Left Marxist group in Catalonia is somewhat 
confusing. At the end of 1931 Nin and Maurin left the Communist party to found 
the Left Communist party. This new group split after the 1933 elections on the 
question of co-operating with the Socialists. Maurin with the great majority (in 
Catalonia they numbered some 25,000) who desired that co-operation founded the 
Bloque Obrero y Campesino, a loose confederation with a small subscription and little 
discipline, and the Federation Comunista Iberica t a nucleus of 3000 militants with a 
stricter discipline. 

It is amusing to note that their eagerness to initiate Popular Front tactics nine 
months before Stalin gave the word led to their being furiously attacked in the 
official Communist press as fascists and traitors. The remainder of the Left Com 
munist party, numbering only some 5000, but containing most of the intellectuals 
Nin, Gorkfn, Andrade and so on remained outside the Alianza Qbrera until 
October 1934, when, like the Communist party, they joined it a few days before the 
rising. 

Then in February 1936 the two branches of the old Left Communists reunited to 
form the P.O.U.M. Oddly enough all the members of this rigidly Marxist group 
syndicated with the C.N.T. and not with the U.G.T. The U.G.T. in Catalonia was 
too reformist. 

D (p. 275). Agrarismo, by the Vizconde de Eza, 1936, p. 155. The British Embassy 
Reports, quoting the statistics issued monthly by the Ministry of Labour, give the 
figure of 220,000 wholly unemployed in agriculture in March 1934. In industry the 
figure was 180,000. But one has to remember that in Spain large numbers of the 
unemployed do not consider it worth while registering with the Labour bureaux. 
In agriculture too the immense extension of hunger and misery among landless 
labourers was caused by partial unemployment. No record exists of those who 
worked only fifty, a hundred or a hundred and fifty days in the year. There can be no 
doubt whatever that in agricultural districts unemployment increased steadily from 
1932 to the outbreak of the Civil War. An olive crisis in 1929, due to a collapse of 
the foreign market, helped to bring down the Dictatorship and the bumper wheat 
crop of 1932 led to a fall of prices that ruined the small farmer. 

E (p. 287). Nicolo Pascazio, an Italian fascist journalist, who was present in Spain 
at this time (i.e. in 1931), thus describes the behaviour of the Tercio: 'The intrusion 
of legionaries of every race under the sun upon the Spanish soil has provoked strong 
disapproval in the Army and has made a far from agreeable impression upon the 
public. At Aspe, near Alicante, they sacked houses, violated women and assassinated 
their husbands' (La Rivolusione di Spagna, 1933, p. 99). 

Major Ram<5n Franco, in an interview with Andre" Germain, spoke of how deeply 
this violation of Spanish soil had shocked him. (La Revolution Espagnole, 1931.) 

It may be remembered that the famous Kirke's Lambs of English history, who 
showed such savagery in liquidating Monrnouth's rising, had, like these legionaries, 
learned their brutal methods in warfare against the Moors at Tangiers. Indeed one 
of the reasons for the British evacuation of Tangiers in 1684 had been the objection 
of Parliament to the maintenance of a garrison which was c a hotbed of popery * and 
might be used by the King to subdue the nation. But for this Foreign Legion the 
Civil War of 1936 could never have taken place. 



THE BIENIO NEGRO 297 

F (p. 288). The following anecdote will show in what way the Moors were till 
recently regarded in Spain. At the conclusion of the Moorish War of 1893-1895 the 
Sultan sent an ambassador to Madrid to conclude terms of peace. Meeting a Moor 
in the street not far from the Royal Palace, a certain General Fuentes was so indig 
nant that a Moslem should venture to enter the capital of Spain that he struck Mm on 
the face. To make up for this there had to be a public apology and the ambassador 
was sent back in state to Tangiers on the cruiser Reina Regente. A somewhat doubt 
ful honour, since on its return journey the cruiser,, which was unaccustomed to 
leaving port, heeled over and sank with all hands. (Manuel Ciges Aparicio, Espana 
bajo la Dinastia de los Borbones, p. 337.) 

Sr. Alfred Mendizabal, a witness by no means friendly to the miners since he is 
both a professor of law and a Catholic, but who was present in Oviedo at the time, 
describes the conduct of the Tercio and Moorish troops in these words : After hard 
fighting they conquered the insurgent zones by the most brutal violence and without 
any respect for the laws of war. Prisoners were executed, many without trial, from 
the first day of the pacification and in numbers out of all proportion to those of 
the victims fallen in battle* (The Martyrdom of Spain, 1937, p. 216). 

It is surprising that Professor Allison Peers, in the long account of the Asturias 
rising which he gives in The Spanish Tragedy, should have forgotten to mention 
either the Moors or the Foreign Legion. 

G (p. 288). The cruel predicaments offered by Spanish history are shown by the 
fact that General L6pez Ochoa was shot by the Republicans during the Civil War 
for his responsibility for the repression at Oviedo, whilst General Batet, who had so 
successfully put down the Barcelona coup and had even been decorated for it, was 
shot by General Mola in January 1937 for refusing to join the Glorious Movement. 
Such was the reward of two soldiers who, in their different ways, remained true to 
their oath of allegiance. 



Chapter XIII 
THE POPULAR FRONT 

Espana ha cansado a" la historia. EMELIO CASTELAR. 

The elections resulted in a victory, by a narrow margin, for the 
Popular Front. The Right (in which must now be included the 
Catalan Lliga) gained 3,997,000 votes, the Popular Front 4,700,000 
and the Centre 449,000. To these must be added the Basque National 
ists, with 130,000 votes; this party, though Catholic and Conservative, 
was to give its adherence to the Popular Front just before the outbreak 
of the Civil War. But these figures were not reflected in the Cortes. 
In accordance with the electoral law of 1932 the Popular Front 
obtained 267 deputies and the Right only 132. The form of suffrage 
which in the previous election had favoured the Right now accen 
tuated the swing of the balance towards the Left. It gave the Popular 
Front an overwhelming majority. 

The first thing to notice about these elections is the great drop in 
the Centre vote. The Radicals, who had put up few candidates, were 
annihilated. Their temporizing policy, ending in the scandals of the 
stmperlo and the Colonial Office, had disgusted their own followers 
who, alarmed by the Oviedo rising, voted mostly for the Right. The 
principal group in the Centre block was a new party formed by 
Manuel Portela Valladares, the leader of the Government which was 
responsible for the holding of the elections. He had not had time to 
build up a new party out of the ruin of the Radicals. After attempting 
at first to fight alone, he had been forced to realize the disadvantages 
which the electoral law gave to a minority party and in many pro 
vinces, at least, had made an electoral pact with the Right. This 
assisted them by giving them the police 'protection' which only a 
Government can give. 1 

It will be seen that for the first time the parties of the Right and of 
the Left were fighting on approximately equal terms: each, that is, 
had formed a combination which took full advantage of the electoral 

1 Portela Valladares went to unusual lengths in changing the Provincial Governors 
and municipalities before the election: this no doubt was intended as a step towards 
'making* the elections in the old way, but the state of feeling in the country pre 
vented it. The collapse of the Centre and Right Centre may be judged from the fact 
that neither Lerroux, Camb6, Melquiades Alvarez nor Martinez de Velasco (leader 
of the Agrarian Party) obtained seats. 



THE POPULAR FRONT 299 

law. The Ceda bad at first had some difficulty in forming a league 
which should include the Monarchists, who were disgusted by their 
temporizing tactics, but this did not prevent them from organizing a 
propaganda campaign on an unprecedented scale. Monster posters 
displaying Gil Robles' uninspiring features decorated the Casttlian 
towns. The captions under them had a Fascist ring. 'Gil Robles 
demands from the people the Ministry of War and all the power/ 
* All power for the leader.' * The leaders are never wrong/ His election 
speeches were of extraordinary violence and consisted mainly of in 
sults to his opponents. Only the vaguest electoral promises were given, 
but most of his supporters understood that his victory would mean 
the end of parliamentary government and the setting up of an authori 
tarian regime. During the past year they had become convinced that 
they would never get the Spain they wanted under a freely elected 
Cortes. Yet it should be noted that, in spite of failures in the Basque 
provinces and in GaHcia, where the Popular Front programme 
promised statutes of autonomy, the Right polled considerably more 
votes than it had done in 1933 : its much smaller representation in the 
Cortes was due to the fact that it was now a minority party. 

As to the Popular Front, there is no means of knowing what votes 
were cast for the various parties that made it up. The numbers of 
deputies returned merely reflect the agreement made between them 
before the election. Thus the Socialists were awarded 89 deputies, the 
Republican Left (Azana's party) 84 and the Republican Union 
(Martinez Barrio's group which had seceded two years before from 
the Radicals) 37. The Communists got 16. Most certainly both they 
and the two Republican parties gained by this arrangement. What 
turned the balance was the Anarcho-Syndicalists* vote. Although 
neither the F.A.I. nor the C.N.T. nor even the Sindicatos de Oposi- 
cion were represented in the Popular Front, the immense majority of 
their members voted for it. 1 The reason they gave for this was that 
some 30,000 workmen, many of them belonging to the C.N.T., were 
in prison. Others were refugees in France: countless more had lost 
their jobs for political reasons. The 1936 election, one may say, was 
won by the Popular Front because it promised an amnesty. It did not 
need any other propaganda. 2 

It might be thought then that the result of these polls showed with 

1 Angel Pestana, breaking with all Anarcho-Syiidicalist traditions, was elected mi 
a Popular Front ticket as Syndicalist deputy for Valencia. 

2 See Note A on p. 314 at end of chapter. 



300 THE POPULAR FRONT 

fair accuracy the real strength of the Right and the Left at this critical 
moment. Unfortunately the question of compulsion and vote-buying 
complicates the matter. Although in most places the elections were 
orderly, the Right could fairly claim that in working-class districts 
many of their more timid supporters did not dare to vote. But what of 
the pressure of caciques and landlords in the country districts ? In the 
villages round Granada, for example, where both parties were strong, 
the police prevented anyone not wearing a collar from approaching 
the polling booths. This was no doubt an extreme case, but all over 
Spain, wherever the Casas del Pueblo were feebly organized, peasants 
and workmen were voting according to the orders of the local estate 
agent in order not to lose their jobs. The prolonged spell of bad 
weather that winter, by increasing the amount of seasonal unemploy 
ment, had given the landlords a strong handle and they made it clear 
that only those voting for the Right would be given work. To cite but 
one example, Dr Borkenau, during the tour of investigation which he 
made six weeks after the outbreak of the Civil War, found that the 
villagers of Alia, a remote pueblo on the borders of Toledo and 
Extremadura, were in a state of wild enthusiasm for the Socialist 
cause. 1 Yet at the previous elections, under pressure of the landlord's 
agent, they had all voted for the Right. Obviously hundreds of other 
villages had behaved in the same way. 

The victory of the Popular Front produced the greatest expectations 
among the working-class supporters of the Left and a corresponding 
consternation in the Right and Centre. Whatever the leaders of the 
Ceda had expected, the rank and file of this party had been confident 
that they would win. The result was at once seen to be much more 
than a mere electoral victory: instead of, as they had hoped, undoing 
everything that had been done since 1931, it inaugurated a new stage 
in the revolutionary process. 

A panic therefore followed the announcement of the election results. 
Some thought that, in the state of excitement prevailing, the Socialists 
and Anarchists would rise and seize arms. Others with more reason 
feared a coup d'etat from the Right. The Prime Minister, Portela 
Valladares, later declared that Gil Robles and General Franco had 
proposed to him a military coup before the Cortes could meet. 2 At all 

1 The Spanish Cockpit, by Franz Borkenau, p. 143. 

a Three days after the Civil War started Portela Valladares wrote an enthusiastic 
letter to Franco. Then, like so many others, he changed his mind. In the autumn of 
1937 he gave his adherence to the Republic and attended the meeting of the Cortes 
at Valencia. It was here that he divulged the proposals made to him by Franco and 
Gil Robles. 



THE POPULAR FRONT 301 

events It was felt too unwise to prolong even by a day the life of the 
Government. Portela Valladares resigned without waiting for the new 
Cortes to assemble, and the President of the Republic called on Azana 
to form a government. He at once issued a decree releasing the 15,000 
or so prisoners that remained from the October rising. In many 
places the prisons had already been opened without the local autho 
rities daring to oppose it. 

The Popular Front pact in Spain had been an election agreement 
only. Prieto's original proposal that a Popular Front government 
should be formed had been turned down by his own party. Largo 
Caballero was resolved never to sit in the same cabinet with Repub 
licans again : all that he had been ready to concede was a promise to 
support them in the Cortes whilst they carried out their programme. 
This programme was an almost ostentatiously modest one. No sociali 
zation whatever not even that of the Bank of Spain was included in 
it: its only positive feature was the pressing forward of agrarian re 
form. Azana personally did everything possible to reassure moderate 
opinion. 'We want no dangerous innovations 5 , he said in an interview 
to Paris Soir. * We want peace and order. We are moderate.' 

The first event of importance after the opening of the Cortes was 
the deposition of the President, Don Niceto Alcala Zamora. His 
natural term was up at the end of the year: one might have supposed 
therefore that he could have been allowed to retain office till then. 
But the situation was felt to be too dangerous. The possibility of his 
throwing in his lot with the Right and organizing a coup d'etat or 
attempting, with doubtful legality, to dissolve the Cortes was always 
there. He was besides not on speaking terms with any of the Popular 
Front ministers except Martinez Barrio. He was therefore declared to 
be guilty of having dissolved the last Cortes without necessity an 
absurd charge for the Left to make, but the only one which under the 
Constitution could secure his dismissal. The Right, which had even 
stronger reasons for disliking him than the Left, abstained from 
voting. Thus fell Don Niceto, whose only fault was that he had 
behaved with the meticulous correctness of a peace-time President 
whilst Spain was going through a revolutionary period. 

It now remained to choose his successor. To everyone's surprise 
Azana allowed his name to be put forward. For if he were elected, 
who would take his place at the head of the Government during this 
critical year? The Republican parties were particularly short of men 
and contained no one who could even remotely be compared to him. 
There were various reasons for this. In the first place Azana was no 



302 THE POPULAR FRONT 

longer the man he had been. He was suffering from a great disil 
lusionment with political life. The Republic which he had formed and 
on which he had set all his hopes had failed to satisfy more than a 
small number of Spaniards. The greater part of the Right was now 
definitely opposed to parliamentary government, whilst on the Left 
Largo Caballero had appeared as a formidable rival who was getting 
ready, with the support of the working-class masses, to step into his 
shoes. The followers of the Spanish Lenin, as he began to be called, 
were already prophesying for him the fate of a Kerensky. And then, 
by accepting the Presidency, he would be in a position to ensure that 
the Socialists should never be allowed to form a government alone. 
He would block their road to power in the same way that Alcala 
Zamora had blocked that of Gil Robles. His antipathy for Largo 
Caballero and what he stood for being well known, his position at the 
head of the State would be a guarantee to all who feared revolution. 
He would also be a guarantee against a Fascist reaction and a rallying 
point for those who feared the spectre of Civil War. He was elected 
on 10 May by a huge majority with only five dissidents. The Right, to 
show that the Republic had ceased to exist for them, returned their 
papers blank. 

The situation that spring and early summer could scarcely have 
looked more ominous to those (and they were still the great majority 
of the country) who desired peaceful solutions. Both on the Right and 
on the Left the leading factions were tired of half-measures and were 
ranging themselves under revolutionary banners. The Right kept 
quiet about their aims : they were organizing secretly, collecting arms, 
negotiating with foreign governments and keeping the country in a 
state of continual turmoil by their provocations and assassinations. 
The Falangists had not been too proud to borrow the tactics of the 
Anarchists and, in the matter of terrorism, to exceed them. The 
Socialists, on the other hand, were not arming nor planning an 
immediate revolution, but were preaching the necessity for a great 
transformation at some not far distant date. They aimed at taking over 
power peaceably from the Republicans, just as Gil Robles had aimed at 
doing from the Radicals in the previous year. The question which 
people asked themselves was, whether the situation in the country 
could disintegrate to such a point that they would be able to do so. 

We have already described the division of opinion that took place 
in the Socialist ranks after the dissolution of the first Republican 
Cortes. Since the last elections it had become much deeper. Prieto, 



THE POPULAR FRONT 303 

who was the leader of the moderate wing, held that if the present 
strikes and disorders went on the middle classes would be driven to 
fascism and armed rebellion. The Socialists must form a government 
in collaboration with the Republicans and introduce legislation which 
would 'make forever indestructible the power of the working classes'. 
By this he meant, among other things, a carefully organized and 
thorough agrarian reform combined with irrigation projects which 
would transform large areas of the country, absorb the excess of rural 
population and provide more work for the factories. If, he declared, 
the aspirations of the workers went beyond the capacity for capitalist 
economy, the structure would break down. Then one would merely 
have 'the socialization of poverty'. It was the old social democratic 
programme of Pablo Iglesias, but it required a security of power over 
many years and a peaceable, unrevolutionary atmosphere. The mass 
of the Socialist workers appeared to reject it. Prieto's only supporters 
were among the party officials, mostly older men, and the miners and 
iron workers of Bilbao and the Asturias, who had learned caution 
from their unsuccessful rising. Yet one should note that in Madrid, 
the stronghold of the Socialist vanguard, Besteiro, an extreme Right- 
wing Socialist, had obtained more votes at the February elections than 
Largo Caballero: if there had been a ballot in the U.G.T. on the 
question of whether the party should enter the Government, there is 
some doubt as to what the result would have been. 

The leader of the other wing among the Socialists was of course 
Largo Caballero. His recent spell of prison had given him some 
leisure and he had employed it to read, apparently for the first time, 
at the age of sixty-seven, the works of Marx and Lenin. Then, as he 
said, 'of a sudden I saw things as they are*. The not very heroic part 
which he had played in the rising of 1934 and the complete failure of 
the operations which he had directed had done little to diminish his 
popularity. The Socialist masses needed a leader and Caballero with 
his striking personality, his fifty years of work in the party machine 
and his strict personal integrity (no one could forget that Prieto had 
become a comparatively rich man) was the only person cut out to play 
the part. Then, a few months before the election, the Communists 
took him up and an article appeared in Pravda hailing him as the 
Spanish Lenin. At once, all over the world, Socialists began to feel 
that a new star had risen in Spain. 

The months of April, May and June saw then the decline of Azana, 
the man of the 'bourgeois Republic', and the rise of Largo Caballero, 



304 THE POPULAR FRONT 

the man who stood for a New Spain. In the Socialist party itself the 
feud between the Prietistas, who wished to collaborate with the 
Republicans, and the Caballeristas, who wished to supplant them, 
grew more and more bitter. On a propaganda tour through the 
country which Prieto made that summer with Gonzalez Pena and 
Belarmino Tomas, they were received by the Socialist Youth with 
shouts and insults and in Cuenca and Ecija they barely got away with 
their lives. Yet Pena and Tomas were the heroes of the Oviedo rising 
who had been condemned to death by the military tribunals and had 
narrowly escaped the firing squad. Whilst this was going on the 
Falangists in Seville were mobbing and beating up the leaders of the 
Ceda. It was becoming a practice in Spanish politics to reserve the 
bitterest attacks, not for the open enemy, but for the groups regarded 
as lukewarm. 

At the same time great efforts were being made by the Socialists 
who followed Caballero to secure an understanding with the Anarcho- 
Syndicalists. Caballero himself visited Saragossa, where they were 
holding a congress, and addressed a large meeting. But his efforts did 
not lead to any definite results. The C.N.T. and the F.A.I. were 
observing a waiting policy, keeping up the revolutionary tempo in the 
country by lightning strikes and closing their ranks (the Trentistas 
rejoined the C.N.T. in May), and they did not in the least trust 
Caballero. They knew well enough the fate which these Left-wing 
Socialists reserved for them if they ever brought off their revolution. 
In several towns the Socialist Youth and the Libertarian Youth had 
begun shooting at one another. 

One must ask what were Caballero's plans for acquiring power. 
'To wait till the Republicans have proved their inability to solve the 
problems of Spain and then to take over the Government* was the 
official answer. But this left out of account the fact that Azafia was 
President of the Republic and that he would never, under any circum 
stances, hand over the keys of the State to the Socialists. Caballero's 
position was therefore that of Gil Robles in 1934. It was in fact worse, 
for whereas Robles could always have seized power by force had he 
thought it expedient, Caballero could not make his revolution against 
the Army and the Civil Guard. But perhaps he banked upon such a 
general increase of the revolutionary feeling of the people as would 
lead to a disintegration of the whole State? To this one must reply 
that the condition of Spain in 1936 was in no way similar to that of 
Russia in 1917 and that as fast as disintegration occurred in certain 



THE POPULAR FRONT 305 

milieux, nuclei of resistance were growing up in others. There was 
really only one chance of Caballero's attaining power and that was 
that the generals should rise, that the Government should distribute 
arms to the people and that the people should win. Consciously or 
unconsciously, he and his party were gambling on there being a 
military insurrection. 

Meanwhile they were indulging in an orgy of optimistic dreams and 
wish-fulfilments. A new and brighter Spain was about to rise from 
the ashes of the old. Socialists from all over the world flocked to 
Madrid and Barcelona to be present at the inauguration ceremony. 
Caballero's paper, Claridad y brilliantly edited and written, proclaimed 
every day the great doctrine of Marxian predestination. The cause of 
the people must infallibly triumph because the laws of history had 
decreed it. And the moment of their triumph was fast approaching. 
No failure was possible. Those English people who were living in 
Spain at this time will agree that nothing contributed so much to 
terrify the Spanish bourgeoisie or to prepare the atmosphere for a 
military rising as these daily prophecies couched in severe and re 
strained language. Terrible images of Russian massacres and famines 
flitted through their minds. The calm assurances of Claridad were a 
thousand times more alarming to them than the inflammatory phrases 
to which a century of demagogic journalism had accustomed them. 

But was the predestinarian frame of mind which the dialectic of 
materialism bestows upon its devotees altogether of advantage to 
them? It seems more likely that, in this case at least, it only served to 
put them to sleep and to blind them to the dangers of their situation. 
Spaniards are by nature all too prone to an easy optimism which 
encourages them in their desire to put off immediate action. They are 
inveterate procrastinators with sudden bouts of impatience. For 
whilst the Socialists were drawing up plans of what they would do 
when power fell into their hands, the Army officers and the Falangists 
were, almost publicly, preparing a rising and negotiating with Musso 
lini and Hitler for assistance. Mucho sdbe el rato t mas el goto is a 
Spanish proverb. The rat knows a lot, but the cat knows more. Had 
Caballero been indeed the Spanish Lenin, that is, a man with a sure 
instinct for power, he would have made terms with Azana and allowed 
the Socialists to enter the Government. It was because he was at 
heart a social democrat playing at revolution that he did not. 

The year 1936 saw the rise of two parties, the Communists and the 
Falangists, from very small beginnings to positions of power and 



306 THE POPULAR FRONT 

influence In the country. First the Communists. During the Dic 
tatorship of Primo de Rivera they had been so insignificant that the 
Government had not even troubled to suppress their newspaper, 
Mundo Qbrero. When the Republic came in the Comintern was going 
through a period of Left extremism and the Communist party 
violently opposed all compromise with the bourgeois state. It was 
left to the dissident Communist group (the 'Trotskyists') under 
Maurin to advocate a democratic republic and a popular front. But 
in the summer of 1934 after the signing of the Franco-Russian pact, 
the policy of the Comintern changed and Communists took part in the 
Asturian rising. This greatly put up their stock. One of the heroines 
of the rising, Dolores Ibarruri, usually known as 'La Pasionaria', 
belonged to their party and their skilful propaganda took full ad 
vantage of this. So influential had they become by the end of the 
following year that in the Popular Front agreement they were allotted 
a representation that gave them sixteen deputies in the new Cortes. 
This was at least four times the figure to which their voting strength 
would have entitled them. 

Their numerical weakness in March 1936 their party membership 
was probably no more than 3000 was their chief handicap. 1 In all 
their fifteen years of existence they had only been able to acquire a 
solid proletarian following in two places Asturias and Seville. In 
both these cases they had captured syndicates from the C.N.T. during 
the straggles and jealousies that had attended the first appearance of 
the F.A.I. Their main recruiting ground was Seville and to a certain 
extent Cadiz and Malaga. At Seville the more militant sections of the 
workers, the dock hands and the cafe waiters, belonged to them. The 
situation here was one of perpetual war with the C.N.T., with small 
sections of the U.G.T. looking on. One should note for the co 
incidence can scarcely be accidental that Seville and Cadiz were also 
the birthplaces of the Falange. Even allowing for the fact that the 
atmosphere of Seville, the city of flamenco singers and bull fighters, of 
taverns and brothels, was not propitious to the formation of a dis 
ciplined proletarian movement, it must be agreed that the Communist 
penetration had destroyed all possibility of working-class solidarity. 

1 They claimed to have at least 20,000 party members at the end of 1935, but 
nobody believed this. Or rather this figure should be taken to include all their 
sympathizers. In the partial biennial renovation of all municipalities in Spain in 
April 1932 only 26 communists were elected out of 16,031 concejales in all Spain. In 
the elections to the Cortes of 1933 they returned one deputy. General Krivitsky, 
who ought to know, gives the party membership as 3000 early in 1936 and 200,000 
in January 1937 (I was Stalin's Agent, by W. G. Krivitsky, 1939). Dr Borkenau 
agrees with this, 



THE POPULAR FRONT 307 

The consequences of this were felt when in July General Queipo de 
Llano was able to capture the city one of the key points of the Civil 
War with a handful of men. 1 

During the months that followed the elections Communist policy 
was governed by two considerations how to fit in with the require 
ments of Stalin's foreign policy and how to increase their following in 
Spain. As regards the first, they strongly supported the Popular Front 
pact and, unlike Cabaliero, wished to see it develop into a Popular 
Front government. Under a fagade of revolutionary slogans they were 
moderate. 'Vote Communist to save Spain from Marxism* had been 
a Socialist joke during the elections. Ajnd after the elections they did 
their best to reassure the Republicans. 'We have still', said the 
secretary of the party in April, 'a long road to travel in their com 
pany/ 

One may therefore dismiss the story that they were planning a 
revolution for that autumn as Fascist propaganda. A revolution would 
have alienated the Western Democracies whom Stalin was courting at 
this time. It would have put Largo Cabaliero and the Socialists into 
power. The Communist policy this spring was simply to take advan 
tage of the revolutionary situation to increase their own influence 
and following. They would thus be in a position, whatever happened, 
to influence events. 

The difficulty about this was that the Socialists and Anarcho- 
Syndicalists had already absorbed all the available land and factory 
workers and that trade-union loyalty was strong. They could not, as 
they had always done in the past, appeal to the more revolutionary 
elements among the masses because they were now less revolutionary 
than the trade-union leaders. Their appeal was therefore made on the 
grounds of their being more up to date, more European and more 
dynamic than the old Spanish parties. To the factory workers they 
pointed out that they alone had sufficient experience to lead a suc 
cessful revolution. To the white-collar workers and to the professional 
classes they explained that they were the men of destiny, fated to rule 
the country after the Revolution and that anyone who threw in his lot 
with them would be sure of a good job. And behind them stood 
Russia. All that spring the shops were flooded with translations of 
Lenin, novels by obscure Russian authors and descriptions of Me in 
the great Socialist paradise. Russia provided not only material assis 
tance but a mystique which gave its votaries an energy and a devotion 
unequalled by any other party in Spain. 

1 See Note B on p. 315 at end of chapter. 



308 THE POPULAR FRONT 

Their tactics were of the kind first employed by the Jesuits in the 
seventeenth century and since carried to greater lengths by Hitler. 
There was the powerful propaganda machine, always well supplied 
with money. There were organizations such as SOCOTTO Rojo Inter 
national which provided food and money for political prisoners 
whatever their party affiliations. There was the flattery of intellectuals 
and of anyone who might be useful to them. But their most charac 
teristic method of adding to their forces was by infiltration into or 
union with other working-class organizations. They set themselves to 
capture in this way the Socialist trade union, the U.G.T. In Largo 
Caballero's lieutenant, Alvarez del Vayo, they found a sympathizer, 
who, without leaving the Socialist ranks, was ready to act in their 
interests. On his return from a visit to Russia in April he was able to 
persuade Caballero to agree to the merging of the Socialist Youth with 
the (much less numerous) Communist Youth. A few days after the 
Civil War broke out, the whole body under their Socialist secretary, 
Carillo Jr., went over to the Communist party. At one swoop 
Caballero lost some 200,000 of his most active supporters. 

The rise to power of the Falange was very similar to that of the 
Communists, though more rapid and more successful. Jose Antonio 
Primo de Rivera, a son of the dictator, founded the Falange Espanola, 
or Spanish Phalanx, in 1932 and two years later merged it with other 
small Fascist groups as the Juntas de OfensivaNacional-Sindicalista or 
J.O.N.S. Down to the elections of February 1936 it remained a very 
small party which obstinately refused to grow. The Church gave it the 
cold shoulder and the landlords disliked it both for its 'socialism' 
and for its violence. It sent only one deputy, Jose Antonio him 
self, to the Cortes. More than half its numbers were university 
students and only one in five of the rest came from the working 
classes. These were usually disgruntled Anarcho-Syndicalists. Its 
chief breeding ground was Lower Andalusia, Seville, Jerez and Cadiz, 
where the senorito element was strong, and of course Madrid. In the 
Conservative and Carlist north and in industrial Catalonia it made 
no progress. 

Its leader, Jose Antonio, as he is always called, was a young Anda- 
lusian of charm and imagination. Even his enemies, the Socialists, 
could not help having a certain liking for him. In cafe discussions he 
used to insist that he was closer to them than to the Conservatives. He 
blamed the Republic for not socializing the banks and the railways 
and for being afraid to tackle agrarian reform with energy. Where he 



THE POPULAR FRONT 309 

disagreed with the Marxists was in their doctrine of class war, which 
he maintained was corrosive and dissolvent. His own solution was a 
* harmony of classes and professions in one destiny'. 

* If one starts off from a conception of unity of destiny, all errors are 
eliminated and one sees that the Patria is not territory, nor race, but 
only unity of destiny oriented towards its universal north.' 

Translated into concrete terms, as the Falangist programme of 
twenty-six points makes clear, this was simply orthodox fascism, the 
only point on which it differed from the Italian model being in its 
attitude to the Church. A Falangist might at the bottom of his mind 
be an atheist, but he must hold the Catholic Church in respect be 
cause it represented the historic ideal for which Spain had always 
stood. In return for protection the State would control the Church 
and impose on it * a new Catholicity*. In other words a Nationalist 
and Falangist character. Finally the ' destiny' which they held out for 
Spain was the creation of an empire, by which they meant the 
acquisition of further territory in Morocco and, though this was not 
said openly, the annexation of Portugal. Beyond this lay a still more 
dazzling prize, the spiritual and political suzerainty over South 
America. Hitler's approaching victory would make that possible. 1 

Fascism is, as is well known, the reply of the 'classes of order' to 
revolutionary situations which fail to come to a climax. Tired of the 
perpetual tug-of-war between opposing forces and of the resulting 
anarchy, the middle classes take refuge themselves in an extreme 
solution. But so long as there was any chance of Gil Robles coming 
peacefully into power the Spanish bourgeoisie turned its back on the 
Falangists. In the elections of February 1936 they polled only 5000 
votes in Madrid out of a total Right-wing vote of 180,000. It was the 
Popular Front victory that made them. The Right had gone to the 
polls expecting to win and full of faith in their leader, and their defeat 
caused immense disillusion. Just as the Socialists had done in 1934, 
they abandoned all idea of peaceful and legal solutions and put their 
hopes in violent ones. Gil Robles found himself almost deserted. His 
followers either flocked into the ranks of the Monarchists, whose new 
leader, Calvo Sotelo, was known to favour a military rising, or they 
enrolled in the Falange. Among the latter were the Joventudes Acdon 
Popular, Gil Robles* Youth Organization, which under its secretary 
Ramon Serrano Suner joined the Falange in April, just as a few 
months later the Socialist Youth joined the Communists. 
1 See Note C on p. 315 at end of chapter. 



310 THE POPULAR FRONT 

From now onwards the Falange began to grow rapidly. As It was 
secretly organized in groups of three and no lists of its members were 
kept, it is impossible even to guess at its numbers. But it was es 
pecially strong in Andalusia. Its adherents belonged to just the same 
type of person, were drawn from the same class and province, as those 
who had flocked into the Masonic lodges in 1814-1820 and made the 
Liberal Revolution, Only the tactics were different. The Falangists 
believed in terrorism and violence. They treated the parties of the 
Right the Ceda, for example with insults, rotten eggs, broken 
windows and furniture: the Left were beaten up or murdered. In 
Madrid they had their cars of escuadristas, armed with machine guns, 
which went round the streets shooting down whoever opposed them. 
Judges who condemned Fascists to prison, journalists who attacked 
them in the press, were assassinated. But their particular vendetta 
was with the Socialists. All this spring and summer the streets of 
Madrid and of other Spanish cities were enlivened by shooting affrays 
between the two parties. The object of this was, of course, to increase 
the sense of disorder and confusion to the point when the * passive 
classes ' would rebel and call out for some change of government. One 
should note, however, that it was not the senoritos of the Falange 
who exposed their lives in these encounters. They employed pro 
fessional pistoleros taken, or sometimes merely borrowed, from the 
C.N.T. Falangists often professed a certain sympathy for Anarcho- 
Syndicalism and claimed that several sections of the C.N.T. had a 
private understanding with them. It may be so, for if their ideologies 
were different, they had the same enemies and the same belief in 
violence. 

The Falange was not the only party that was working for a counter 
revolution in Spain. There was also a group of Army officers, the 
Carlists or Traditionalists, and the Monarchists. The officers belonged 
to the Union Militar Espanola or U.M.E., a secret society which had 
taken the place of the old Juntas de Defensa. They were in touch with 
the Italian and German Governments and their preparations for a 
rising were already far advanced. The Traditionalists, under the 
leadership of Fal Conde, were drilling their militia in the mountains 
of Navarre. Owing to the practical extinction of Don Carlos' line (the 
last survivor, Don Alfonso Carlos, was now eighty-seven) and to the 
repudiation by the Monarchists of parliamentary government, the 
gulf that had once separated these two parties no longer existed. 

The Monarchists had never ceased plotting since the Republic 
came in. Their chief, Antonio Goicoechea, had been in secret re- 



THE POPULAR FRONT 



lations with the Italian Government since 1933.* Not long after this 
Calvo Sotelo, who had been Finance Minister during the Dictator 
ship, returned from exile and took over the general leadership of all 
the forces of the Right which favoured a rebellion. He was a man of 
active and violent temperament with a blind hatred for the Republic 
and all its ways, and he was the only figure of political ability on the 
extreme Right. The fact that he was not personally committed to a 
restoration of the Monarchy made him a valuable link between Army 
officers, Falangists and Conservative politicians. In the Cortes his 
policy was directed to preventing any reconciliation between the 
Ceda and the Republicans and to drawing as much of the Right as 
possible over to the side of insurrection and civil war. Like the rest of 
his party he was especially violent in his denunciation of the Gene- 
ralidad and of the Basque and Galician autonomists. Prefiero una 
Espana roja a una Espana rota he declared: 'I prefer a red Spain to a 
broken Spain.' Yet it was a broken Spain which the rising organized 
by him was to create. 2 

The spring and early summer of 1936 were passed in a continual 
effervescence. Only in the north and in Catalonia was there com 
parative quiet. Lightning strikes by the C.N.T., Socialist and 
Falangist shooting affrays in Madrid, occasional church burnings by 
the F.A.I., were the rule elsewhere. In some places the Communists 
and the C.N.T. had come to blows, and in other places it was the two 
wings of the Socialist party. In almost every trade there were strikes 
in which the workers demanded higher wages, shorter hours and 
large sums in compensation for wages earned whilst they were in 
prison. Businesses were everywhere losing money, capital was leaving 
the country and a financial crash seemed imminent. Spain had often 
before stood periods of anarchy far worse than this and had survived, 
but her industrial organization was now more complex, so that the 
effects were more deeply felt. The primitive psychology of the country, 
with its periodic need of kicking over the traces, no longer fitted in 
with modern conditions. 

1 In a speech made at San Sebastian, on 22 November 1937, Goicoechea stated 
that as early as March 1934 he and other Right-wing parties had 'planned a coup 
d'etat backed by an insurrection of the Army, or, if necessary for the safety of Spam, 
even a Civil War'. Previous to this, he declared, he and other Spanish Monarchists 
had made a visit to Italy in order to secure 'not only the support of die Italian 
Government but also of the Fascist Party in the event of the outbreak of civil war in 
Spain' (reported in Manchester Guardian, 4 December 193?). . 

According to a document in Goicoechea's handwriting found later in the Spanish 
Foreign Office and published, the help asked for was promised by the Italian 
Government. The date of his visit to Italy is here given as March 1933- 

2 See Note D on p. 315 at end of chapter- 



312 THE POPULAR FRONT 

In the country districts the small peasants and landless labourers 
were clamouring for land. There had been a very rainy winter and the 
unemployment and hunger were more severe than ever. But the 
Government, which seemed to have learned nothing from past ex 
perience, was in no hurry to listen to them. Then in Extremadura the 
yunteros (owners of teams of ploughing mules or oxen) marched out 
and forcibly occupied stretches of untilled land belonging to the large 
estates. The Government was obliged to give way and sent down 
surveyors to legalize the situation. Then a few weeks later, at Yeste, a 
remote mountain village near the source of the Guadalquivir, oc 
curred one of those battles between the peasants and the Civil Guard 
of which the annals of the Spanish countryside provide so many 
examples. Twenty-three villagers were killed and over a hundred 
wounded. After this the peasants began in many places to plough the 
land on the large estates and the Government did not dare to interfere 
with them. 

These- disturbances, not very important in themselves, provided a 
background for the drama that was going on behind the scenes. 
Everyone knew that the Army officers were preparing a rising and that 
a civil war was imminent. The Government was as weak as possible. 
Attacked daily in the Cortes by Calvo Sotelo, undermined by its allies 
the Socialists and harassed by the guerrilla tactics of the Anarchists 
and Falangists, it could do nothing but utter threats. The Prime 
Minister, Casares Quiroga, was a consumptive: he reacted to the 
danger of the situation by an optimism that would have to be con 
sidered insane if it were not a symptom of his disease. He took 
certain precautions: his bed was set up in his office and he slept and 
ate there : the garrisons were reduced to skeleton strength by sending 
most of the conscripts home. But his espionage system worked badly. 
General Queipo de Llano, for example, retained his confidence until 
the last moment and, in spite of what had happened at Oviedo, he 
seems never to have foreseen the possibility of an invasion by the 
Foreign Legion and the Moorish troops. Had he done so, the key 
points of Seville and Cadiz could have been secured, tanks and 
modern aeroplanes could have been bought abroad and negotiations 
could have been opened with the Berber tribes of the Riff for granting 
them autonomy. 

One must ask what Azana %vas doing. He was anxious to form a 
government of National Union under Prieto which would allay the 
fears of the middle classes and would yet be strong enough to deal 



THE POPULAR FRONT 313 

with any emergency. For this the consent of the Socialist party was 
necessary. Caballero saw that it was not given. He was pressed to 
form a temporary dictatorship to save the country from the dangers of 
civil war. The Mexican President Juarez, whom Azana in many ways 
resembled, had been driven to this step. But again the opposition of 
the Socialists and of the Anarcho-Syndicalists made this unfeasible. 
In the face of these difficulties a kind of apathy seems to have come 
over him. He decided to play for time, in the hopes that the excite 
ment of the working classes would subside and that the middle classes 
would be reassured by his repeated promises that no further advance 
towards Socialism would be tolerated. The error in this calculation 
was that the Army would certainly strike before things went much 
farther. 

It is impossible not to place a certain share of the responsibility for 
what followed upon Largo Caballero. On the first of May he had led a 
huge procession through the streets of Madrid. More than 10,000 
workmen, saluting with clenched fist, bore banners declaring: *We 
want a Workers' Government. Long live the Red Army!' Intoxi 
cated by the enthusiasm of his followers, entirely confident of success, 
he shut his eyes to the dangers of the course he was following. He 
was sixty-eight, an age when one must hurry if one wishes to see the 
Promised Land. Proud and stubborn by nature, not easily influenced 
by others, he had spent all his life within the framework of a trade 
union. He therefore lacked a wide political vision. Otherwise he 
would have seen that the disposition of forces in Europe to consider 
nothing else would never tolerate the creation of a dictatorship of 
the working classes in Spain, As it was, the only effect of the Socialist 
policy of undermining the Republican Government instead of col 
laborating with it was to render it too weak, morally and materially, to 
resist the blow that was about to fall upon it. It was the mistake which 
the exaltados had made in 1823 and the last Cortes of the First 
Republic in 1874. One may call it the national mistake, Spanish 
history being made up in large part of the ruins left by such acts of 
inebriation and over-confidence. 

In June, when a military coup was believed to be imminent, Largo 
Caballero had an interview with Azana. Pointing out the dangers of 
the situation, he asked that arms should be distributed to the workers. 
That would of course have meant handing over the power in the 
country to them. One wonders what answer Caballero can have 
expected. During the past few months he had been doing everything 



314 THE POPULAR FRONT 

he could to make Azana's acceptance of such advice impossible. The 
President of the Republic was as much pledged to prevent a dictator 
ship of the Left as of the Right. What reason was there for thinking 
that he would prove even feebler than Kerensky? 

On 13 July the news became known that Calvo Sotelo had been 
assassinated by some Socialists disguised as police as a reprisal for the 
murder of one of their companions by the Falangists a few days 
before. He was, with General Sanjurjo and Jose Primo de Rivera, the 
most outstanding figure among the men who were about to raise the 
standard of revolt. The date of the rising was brought forward a little 
to take advantage of the shock produced by his death. On the i6th 
the Army in the Spanish Zone in Morocco rose and occupied Ceuta 
and Melilla. The Government still had time to act: the Army could 
have been dissolved and arms distributed to the people. Instead a 
proclamation was issued to the effect that * nobody, absolutely nobody 
in Spain had taken part in this absurd plot'. That afternoon the 
officers of the garrisons rose in almost every Spanish city. It was not 
until midnight on Saturday the i8th that the order for distributing 
arms to the people was issued. Even then some of the Civil Governors 
refused to obey it. 

FURTHER NOTES ON CHAPTER XIII 

A (p. 299). Whilst no exact comparison of the number of votes cast in the 1933 and 
1936 elections is possible, one may make the following observations: 

In 1933 the Right vote totalled 3,385,000. In 1936 it totalled 3,996,931. But in 
1933 the Basque Nationalists (130,000) voted for the Right whilst the Catalan Lliga 
(400,000) did not. What one may call the hard core of the Right was therefore 
3,250,000 in 1933 and 3,600,000 in 1936. Its increase was chiefly due to the fact that 
the Oviedo rising had scared the middle classes. Most of the Radicals, who in 1933 
had already begun to form local election agreements with the Right, now voted for 
them. On the other hand in some districts, such as Galicia, where the Right had 
formerly done well, it suffered a heavy defeat. This was because the Galicians had 
been promised a Statute of Autonomy. 

As for the Centre, it only obtained 449,320 votes in 1936, whereas in 1933 one 
party alone, the Radicals, had obtained 700,000 in those constituencies in which they 
had fought alone. The total Centre vote in Spain, if one includes in it the Catalan 
Lliga, can be estimated as at least a million and a half. 

The vote of the Left Republicans (including the Catalan Esquerra) and of the 
Socialists cannot be distinguished in 1936. In 1933 the former obtained 640,000 and 
the latter 1,722,000 where they fought separately. To these figures must be added 
the votes cast in those constituencies where they combined a figure which might 
amount to three-quarters of a million. The membership of the U.G.T, in 1936 was 
about a million and a half and many workers who were not affiliated sympathized 
with it. Taking into account the female vote one might have expected the Socialists 
to poll nearly three millions. That they did not do so was partly due to the pressure 
of landlords in the country districts, but more, I think, to a reaction against the 
adventurous policy of the Socialist leaders. 



THE POPULAR FRONT 315 

In 1933 just over eight millions voted: in 1936 the poll was just over nine and a 
quarter. (The total number of voters in Spain was 12 J millions.) The increase of a 
million and a quarter can to a great extent be put down to the Anarchist vote. 

B (p. 307). This situation first came to a head at the 1931 elections to the Cortes. 
The Radical Socialist candidates were Comandante Franco (brother of the general) 
and Balbontin. They were supported by the C.N.T. and its well-known Anarchist 
leader Dr VaUina. The Communist candidate was Adame, late secretary-general of 
the C.N.T., who a few months before had gone over to them after a quarrel with 
Vallina, taking with him the dock workers' and cafe waiters* unions. Thus two 
branches of the C.N.T. were fighting one another under other names and on the 
forbidden territory of the ballot box. This is not so surprising as one might think, 
for, of all the many parties in Spain, none showed a more intense and consistent 
interest in the game of politics than the Anarcho-Syndicalists. It had the same 
fascination for them that scandal has for spinsters. 

Incidentally Adarne lost, getting only 5211 votes. 

C (p. 309). The Falange has a kind of shadowy ancestor in Spanish history in the 
Comuneros or Hijos de Padilla who appeared in 1832, in the middle of the Liberal 
Revolution, in antagonism to the Masonic lodges and to their international, humani 
tarian character. They stressed the national side of the Revolution, called their 
lodges torres (towers) Instead of talleres (workshops) and used a ceremonial derived 
from Spanish chivalry. As the Revolution was suppressed by a French army in the 
following year, their history was short-lived. 

D (p. 3 1 1 ). This was one of the matters on which the Army and indeed all the Right 
felt strongly. Fal Conde, the Traditionalist leader, addressing the Catholic Union at 
Bilbao in February, had welcomed to his party * all without exception, but not the 
Basque Nationalists. With them there can be no union.* 

Thus the historic Carlist and Liberal roles were reversed : in the past the Carlists 
had been the defenders of the provincialfueros, and the Liberals, then associated with 
the Army, had been the upholders, or rather the creators, of Castilian centralism. 
The feud between the two leading Basque provinces traditionalist Navarre and 
autonomist Guipuzcoa which broke out this summer, led to one of the bitterest 
repressions of the Civil War. 



Chapter XIV 
EPILOGUE THE CIVIL WAR 

El vencido vencido y el vencedor perdido. 

The history of the Civil War lies outside the scope of this book. Those 
two and a half years require a volume to themselves and in any case 
the time when an objective survey of them can be made has not yet 
arrived. However, to round off the events described in the last 
chapter, some observations upon the political developments brought 
about by the war seem to be called for. 

The Military Junta and group of Right-wing politicians which rose 
against the Government in July expected to occupy the whole of Spain, 
except Barcelona and perhaps Madrid, within a few days. They had at 
their disposal the greater part of the armed forces of the country the 
Civil Guard, the Foreign Legion, a division of Moorish troops from 
Spanish Morocco, four-fifths of the infantry and artillery officers and 
a certain number of regiments recruited in the north and therefore 
reliable. They had also the Carlist levies or requetes which had for 
some time been drilling secretly and the promise of Italian and 
German tanks and aeroplanes if necessary. Against these the Govern 
ment had only the Republican Assault Guards and a small and badly 
armed air force. But the plans of the rebels were defeated by the 
tremendous courage and enthusiasm with which the people rose to 
defend themselves and by the loyalty of the naval ratings who at a 
critical moment deprived them of the command of the sea. Each side 
being then left in control of one half of Spain, a civil war became 
inevitable. 

In the political sphere things did not follow quite the lines that 
might have been expected. After a period of violent social revolution 
the 'Reds* or 'Loyalists', as the parties supporting the Republic were 
variously called, began to move more and more to the Right, taking as 
their slogans 'Respect the property of the peasant', 'No interference 
with the small business man' and 'No socialization of industry*. At 
the same time they took up a national and patriotic attitude of defence 
of their country against the foreign invader. What seemed strange was 
that the chief advocates of this policy were the numerically feeble but 



EPILOGUE THE CIVIL WAR 317 

actually very influential Communist party. The * Nationalists', on the 
other hand, fell more and more deeply under German and Italian 
influence and, to give their own side something of a mass following, 
were obliged to hand over the greater part of the political power to the 
Falangists and to come out with a social programme that, if it were 
meant seriously, was more drastic than anything ever proposed by the 
Republic. 

The result of the war was decided by the question of foreign help. 
Whilst there was little to choose between the political and military 
competence or incompetence of either side, almost all the mass sup 
port, the enthusiasm, the spirit of sacrifice was upon the Republican. 
The Falangists proved to be a mere Iron Guard, undisciplined and 
irresponsible: for a crusading spirit Franco could count only on the 
Carlists. But German and Italian help was enormously more power 
ful than Russia's, and for this reason the Franco forces won. 

To consider first the Republican side, the rising of the masses that 
led to the defeat of the insurrection in Madrid and Barcelona carried 
everything before it. The Government, which to impress foreign 
opinion was composed of Liberal Republicans, led by Giral, a friend 
of Azaiia's, lost all authority. The workers, through their party and 
trade-union organizations, became the real rulers of the country and 
the organizers of the war. This, one might say, was the Soviet phase of 
the Spanish Revolution. And yet it would, I think, be a mistake to 
regard it as a purely revolutionary phenomenon in the sense usually 
given to that word. On several occasions before in Spanish history the 
people have pushed aside their weak and clumsy governments and 
taken the conduct of affairs into their own hands. This happened 
notably in the war against Napoleon, when the local juntas, composed 
of men of all classes and opinions, but mainly of priests and artisans, 
were the really effective organs of resistance. That war had also been 
to a certain extent a civil war just as the 1936 war could likewise be 
regarded as a war of defence against a foreign aggressor. 1 It was thus 
natural that the juntas of 1808 should be reborn in the Workers' 
Committees of July-October 1936. 

1 The Dos de Mayo was followed in Madrid and all over Spain by attacks on the 
Governors, nobles and other members of the ruling classes who were thought to 
favour the French. A tract was printed with this title: 'List of the houses assaulted 
by el Gran PueUo Libertador against the rascals who have ruined the nation of Spain, 
which is worthy of better governors and of honourable kings and of other things." 
The church of San Juan de Dios in Madrid was burned by the mob because it con 
tained a portrait of Godoy. 



3*8 EPILOGUE THE CIVIL WAR 

The function of these committees was triple. Through the militia, 
which they armed and organized, they carried on the war against the 
enemy forces. By terrorism they destroyed or intimidated the enemy 
in their midst. And they took over the factories and estates abandoned 
by their owners and in one way or another continued to work them. 
Where the committees were Anarchist, there was a definite policy of 
collectivization which was intended to prepare the way for a thorough 
going social revolution. 

A great deal has been written about the Red terror of the first two 
months. It was at bottom a spontaneous movement, corresponding to 
the necessities of a revolutionary war, where the enemy within may be 
as dangerous as the enemy outside, and in spite of many protests both 
public and private, it accorded for a time with both the policy and the 
sentiments of all the Po